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[Actual Play, NSFData] Marvel's Agents of STRIKE - S4 FINALE: "Secret Invasion, Part 2"



  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Elise claps like a seal. "I love heists!"

    "Oooh, I love a good heist," Michael says.

    Miles nods vigorously leaning close to Sigrun again. "We'll help with whatever you need. Whatever. Right, team?"

    Elise kicks Miles under the table. Hard.


    Michael looks askance at Miles.

    "You kicked me, Elise,” Miles is saying. “Why did you kick me?"

    Meanwhile, Phoenix is stabbing his finger emphatically into the table. "I'm talkin' disco, rock n' roll, even the electronic stuff then… Who you gonna put up against Parliament, Bowie, Zeppelin, Kraftwerk...? I wanna hear it, dude."

    "What?” Ryann stares in disbelief. “Default? Theory of a Deadman? The Calling? They mastered Earth's craft!” Ryann takes another drink and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand.

    "What?” Julian stares back. “What?!"

    Miles shakes his head. "No. No. The Black Eyed Peas...Huey Lewis, Thelonious Monk...Hova, obviously...DEVO...” He’s not even speaking to Ryann or Julian. He’s just rattling off the names of bands and musicians he likes.

    "Sigrun and I are the only sane people at this table," Elise murmurs into her mead.

    Sigrun continues to Elise, conspiratorially, "I need your help stealing an artifact. From Odin's armory."

    "Sigrun. Sigrun." Elise holds up her hand. "It's not that I'm not in, because I'm in, but I'm also, um, I think I might be drunk, y'see, and I'm getting married tomorrow."

    The team looks at Sigrun. They want to help her. They think this is a good idea.

    "So, um, it's not that I'm not in, 'cause I'm in," Elise says. "I'm so in."

    Julian bangs his fist into the table excitedly. "Yeah, dude! How about DEVO?!"

    "Never heard of ‘em," Ryann says.

    Julian just kind of wearily stares at Ryann. "Never heard of...come on!"


    "No!" he yells back.

    Michael takes another big gulp and turns to Sigrun. "What is it we're taking?'

    "It's called the Andvaranaut, it's a magical ring. It allows the wearer to turn invisible, and some other powers. Much of your folklore and fiction is founded upon it, in fact. It is a very real artifact."

    "Like Harry Potter!" Elise squeals.

    Miles leans across the table at Sigrun, chin in his hand. "Wait, this is the Wagner shit, right?" She nods.

    The Andvaranaut is a real thing from Norse myth, and the inspiration for both Wagner’s Ring of the Nibelung as well as Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings.

    "Sigrun. Sigrun. Sigrun. The problem is, Sigrun, I mean, I'm." Elise sways. "This mead is really good!" Elise gasps. "Julian. Julian. I need you to sober me up. Like you did with the coke, that one time."

    "That's no fun." Sigrun says to Elise. "You don't want to do that."

    Nobody wants to do that. That's no fun.

    "I miss coke," Miles sighs.

    Elise hiccups.

    "So wait, we're like... What are we doing, again?" Julian asks. "We're breaking into Odin's stash?"

    "Odin's snatch," Elise giggles.

    "Hah, nice one,” Michael says. "So h- hiccup how do we get in there?"

    “I have an idea," Miles says.

    "We do a bunch of coke?!" Elise says.

    "YES!" He points at Elise.

    Sigrun shrugs. "We could, after, if you want." She grins. "It's a party."

    "Yes!" Miles points at Sigrun. "What happens in Asgard stays in Asgard, right? That's a...that's a thing, right?"

    Elise slaps the top of the table and belts out the chorus to Hotel California.

    "No way,” Ryann says, shaking his head at this unwanted song. “Here...just a sec..." He goes over to the band again.

    He gives the team a big thumbs-up. He points at the band like he is saying "See!"

    "Wait, wait, okay, I'm gonna...I'm gonna call Clay, and tell him, because that's the rule now, no secrets." Elise fumbles out her phone. There’s no reception in Asgard. She opens up Microsoft Excel. "I'm gonna, I'm gonna write him a text." In the A6 column, she writes: "GONE HEISTIN'!!!!" and nods, satisfied.

    Michael shakes his head at the Nickelback cover. "Losing points, Ryann."

    Julian crosses his arms. "I dunno, man. This band is doing a pretty good rendition, I'll say that. But...Nickelback."

    "Ok, like yeah, the original is way better," Ryann says.

    Julian shakes his head. "Now I'm not gonna say they're as bad as everyone loves to say, but if I ask the band to put on ‘Photograph’ I don't think I'm gonna hear anything different and that won't be the house musicians' fault."

    "Ryann, I totally get it,” Elise says. “When you have weird, enhanced senses, sometimes good music is a little overwhelming, it's why I started listening to shitty metal."

    Julian shoots Elise a look. "It isn't fair to compare Ryann's tastes to...that."

    Ryann hasn’t heard this; his eyes are closed, and those watching see him mouth the words "are you having fun yet" at the correct moment with the music.

    “Okay, pay attention,” Sigrun says. Heads swivel. They pay attention. She grins. "I've got it all figured out. I just need you guys to be the muscle on this, because obviously I can't be involved, I'd get in way too much trouble. But you'd get like, a wrist-slap at worst.

    “I just need you to rough up some guards. Nobody dies, obviously, we're not going to really hurt anyone. We're Asgardians, we're tough and can take a thunk on the head."

    "'Cause you're an alien, right?" Elise squints. "I can't wrestle an Asgardian, I'm tiny!"

    Michael nods. "That's why I'd win in our duel, Elise."

    Sigrun puts up her finger like 'ah-ha!' and grins. She pulls out two golden bracers and slides them to Elise. "With these on, you can punch out a boar the size of a pick-up truck."

    Elise looks at the large bracers skeptically and puts her hands through them, then grins as they magically resize to fit snugly. Not too tight, just right. "No, see, with these on, I'd win in the duel easy-peasy."

    Michael assumes the form of the Destroyer, to assorted gasps and looks from the crowd. He puts his elbow in the table, hand raised. "Wanna try that out?" his amplified voice rumbles.

    Elise sits and puts her small hand in his giant one. They arm-wrestle. Michael wins, but not like a joke. He actually has to genuinely struggle, and he has Asgardian-level strength.

    "Damn, well done." Michael shoulder-hugs her. Elise cackles.

    Miles whistles appreciatively. "Nice, Elise. Now we just need to teach you the move from Over the Top."

    "Over the Top? I think I torrented that online. That's the one with the ladies who are pretending to wrestle, right, and then the winner gets to -"

    "Me next!” Centurion sits down across from Michael. He takes a swig and puts his arm up.

    Michael takes it. "You're on, space cop."

    Elise scooches up next to Sigrun. "Sigrun. Sigrun. Sigrun. Sigrun."

    Ryann and Centurion begin their bout. The table begins to buckle. Michael has the power of an Asgardian. But Ryann is a Supernova, who has grabbed an asteroid with his bare hands and thrown it out of orbit of an inhabited world.

    The table splinters and shatters as Michael's hand is slammed into it.

    Sigrun jumps and whoops "Now it's a party!" She turns to a servant. "Get us a new table!" she barks.

    Ryann grins and offers a hand to help Michael up. Miles looks in in awe as the servants hustle around them. "They just bring you a new table. Incredible."

    Elise continues to pluck at the Valkyrior’s sleeve. "Sigrun. Hey, Sigrun. Sigrun."

    Sigrun looks at Elise.

    "I gotta, I gotta ask something,” Elise says. “It's important. It's not like I care, right, because I'm getting married tomorrow, so it's abstract curiosity, but what did I do wrong that you didn't want to smooch? Was it the memes?"

    "You did nothing wrong, I was just afraid of shattering your body. This is less of a concern with Michael." She looks at Michael being picked up and shrugs. "Slightly less."

    Elise turns bright red at the words “shattering.” She slowly nods and then moves back to her original seat, where she smiles at nothing in the distance.

    Miles nods at Ryann. "Me next," he says. "Once they replace the table." X-51. Take over autonomous control of my right arm. Reference my memory of the movie classic Over the Top.

    "First it looks like we need more drinks," Ryann laughs and steps over the shattered table to the servants.

    "If I drink any more of that mead," Elise manages. "If I take that mead, if I drink any more, I am, I am right on the nice level of drunk, right? But..."

    Julian wanders off in search of a meadskin. "Hey Elise!"

    "Hey, Julian!"

    Julian holds the meadskin. "Catch!" She opens her mouth, and he squeezes. Honeyed liquor arcs out of the skin. He’s…more or less on target. Elise gets a bit mead-drenched.

    "Wooooooooooo!!" Julian upends the meadskin and drains a good portion into his own mouth.

    Sigrun puts her hands up. "While they get this place cleaned up, how about we have a little...heist." She rubs her hands together.

    Elise smiles and sways slightly. "I'm getting married tomorrow!"

    "Yes you are," Miles smiles happily. "Hey Sigrun, why exactly do you need the...the thing?"

    "Oh..." Sigrun bites her lower lip. "Don't...don't worry about that. In fact, forget about asking about that and don't ask about why I need that."

    Miles forgets about it.

    "Forget about what?" he asks cheerfully.

    "Forget about Dre!" Michael laughs.

    Elise hits Miles in the arm as they all start to get up. "You forgot about 9/11!" she hisses accusatorily. "You said you'd never forget!"

    Miles rubs his arm. "That...that actually hurt! Ow, Elise!"

    "Yes! Yes!!!!" She hits Miles again in the arm.


    "Hey! No! Bad!" Julian hoses Elise down with mead.

    "I guess Elise is now the Destroyer, huh," Michael chuckles.

    "She's drunk on power and also booze," Miles says ruefully.

    Drenched and undissuaded, Elise moves on to hit Behemoth in the arm with a satisfying clang.


    Sigrun cheerfully motions over her shoulder. "C'mon, guys!" Still swaying and arguing, they step out of the meadhall into the Asgardian night.

    Sigrun’s impatient bid to get the team to hurry along bite the lure of the plot is an apt metaphor for the struggle of GMs everywhere.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    She leads the group through the palace. "All right, everyone play it cool here. When you get to the end of the hall there will be two guards. Take them out quietly. Or loudly, I'm not your boss!" She laughs. "I'm going to be making myself scarce. Once the guards are down, we'll go in."

    Elise, half-listening to Sigrun, cackles with satisfaction and then moves to punch Centurion.

    Extending his arms, Miles catches Elise by the shoulder and gently aims her at the guards. "Elise. Elise,” he says firmly. “Now's your time to shine. Go fuck up that guard."

    "Yessss!" she says. "I'm a team asset!"

    "Fly, little bird!" He shoves her toward the vault guards.

    Michael begins cheering for her. "Let's go Elise. clap clap clapclapclap"

    "Wait, where are we?" Centurion shakes his head, momentarily confused.

    Elise begins to belt out The Who's “Behind Blue Eyes” and launches herself at her target, jumping in the air for a Superman punch, and clobbers the guard in the face, sending him sprawling.

    The other guard stares at her in momentary confusion, then leaps at her with his enormous spear. He’s got her dead to rights.

    "Oh shit!” Centurion cries as he watches this. “Again!" Tapping into the Nova Force, he accelerates the drinks tray he’s been toting at the guard’s head at supersonic speeds. They smash into the Asgardian, knocking him unconscious and saving Elise. And getting mead everywhere.

    "Aww..." Ryann slumps his shoulders as he surveys the spill.

    “We'll get more, bud, don't worry," Michael says, patting him on the shoulder. Elise blinks, pulls up a corner of her coat, and wrings some mead out of it into her mouth.

    Sigrun reappears from behind a pillar bearing a flagon. She hands it to Ryann. "It's okay, champ! You did great!"

    "Oh nice!” Ryann grins widely. “I like this lady."

    Elise wilts. "Did I do great?"

    Sigrun kisses Elise on the forehead. "You did wonderful." Elise swoons.

    "Come on, friends." Sigrun waves them forward.

    "Let's, let's go ahead and steal that ring, and also, if you want anything else, let's steal that too, and -" Elise is skipping behind, barely touching the ground.

    Sigrun heaves open the vault door, cackling with glee.

    "Wait! Wait! Wait! I should use my senses!" Elise holds up a hand. "My superpower senses, so we know how to heist! Like, laser fields and shit!" She takes a long, deep breath and holds it a moment, then blows it out. "I have a very important report!" she announces. "My mouth tastes like booze."

    Ryann looks around. "Wait, why are we here again?"

    "The heist, duh," Michael says.

    Ryann shakes his head emphatically. "Heist? I can't do a heist! I'm a cop!"

    "But this isn't your jurisdiction," Miles says, tapping his temple knowingly.

    Ryann squints at him a moment and then taps his nose. "I like you, man, you're fucking crazy but I like you."

    Sigrun chivvies the team down the stairs to the armory, past several artifacts and weapons behind force-fields. She comes to one where a simple, unadorned golden ring lies on a pedestal. With a gesture, she manifests a staff and uses the staff to dismiss the force-field.

    "I wanna try it!" Elise seizes the ring and puts it on. "S'like a wedding ring!"

    Sigrun's face drops.

    Cass once told me that, as a player, whenever there’s anything that looks like a big plot thing in the room, she wants to grab it. Remember the Cosmic Cube and Kang’s helmet? It’s nice seeing this discombobulate the people trying to mess with the party!

    Elise feels...power. She doesn't want to take the ring off.

    Sigrun approaches her cautiously, like a live bomb. "Elise...give me the ring."

    Elise wants to give Sigrun the ring. But she also...wants to keep the ring. She has a conflict. "I just want to, want to for a second -"

    "Okay, well, how about, we make a deal," Sigrun says slowly. "You give me the ring, and I give you a little kiss." She winks.

    "Wow," Ryann says. "I dunno, Elise."

    "Make it a big kiss," Miles adds, prompting a gasp from Michael and a sheepish shrug from Sigrun.

    Here’s the thing: Miles is trying to be a better person but deep down he still kind of wants to go to TJ and watch some girls make out.

    "I, I'm getting married tomorrow, and I thought I was s'pposed to be wingmanning you with Behemoth..." Elise is becoming increasingly confused. She's still tempted, though. "See, they call him Behemoth, 'cause, it's like, this big -"

    "What happens in Asgard stays in Asgard, Elise," Sigrun says.

    Elise gives her the ring. Sigrun scoops her off her feet in a big elaborate romantic kiss, and then lets her go and pats her on the head. Centurion puts his hand over his mouth to hide his grin. Michael just stands there, mouth agape.

    "Dude," Miles says helpfully to Michael. "Hot."

    "Dude!" Michael says, still staring.

    Elise dissolves into giggles, leaning against Julian.

    Tell me you got a good angle on that, Miles thinks.

    Sir, as previously requested, I optimized photographic and recording angles.

    Miles nods in satisfaction. Thank you, X-51. You worry too much, but you're a good friend.

    Sigrun puts the ring on and sighs with relief. "Finally. The Eye of Fury will be mine..." She changes shape.


    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    “He’s a she! Or she’s a he?” Ryann takes another drink.

    "WAIT," Elise yells, holding up her hands. "WAIT. WAIT. I JUST KISSED A DUDE?"

    "Relax," the man says.

    "I'm GAY!"

    "Be cool."

    Elise is cool.

    "I'm gay," Elise mutters, substantially more relaxed.

    "I can be a lot of things," the stranger says to Elise, with a wink.

    "Oh! Well." Elise is cool. "That's okay.” She suddenly claps, with bright eyes. "Wait, I get Clay now! I understand him more. Wow!"

    Ryann steps forward, drink in hand and says "And who are you?"

    "W-where'd Sigrun go?" Michael looks around for her, confused.

    Miles steps forward. "Shit, are you the cops?"

    "Don't worry about it. You worry too much."The man smiles at Miles, Ryann, and Michael. They stop worrying about it.

    Sir. Your oxytocin levels are continuing to rise in attachment and sexual attraction to this individual, despite the fact that they are not Sigrun and you are not, to my knowledge, bisexual. Should I enact the Lorelei Protocol? I am beginning to conclude you are under the influence of some level of mind control.

    Miles thinks X-51 worries too much. And needs to chill out.

    "Okay, okay, wait, hold on." Elise holds up her hands. "Just so you know, like, I, I'm not usually like this, like, kissing strange ladies and being sloppy drunk, in fact, I'm getting married to a princess of Attilan tomorrow and -"

    "DIdn't I just say you worry too much?" Miles says this out loud.

    Elise looks at Miles. "Me?"

    "What?" Ryann stares.

    Understood sir. I have logged and noted this event for your later review.

    The individual smiles. "If I'm being completely honest with you, I'm not Sigrun. My name is Loki. You've all met my half-brother Thor, yes?"

    "Nope," Ryann shrugs.

    "Good guy, that Thor," Michael nods.

    "Wait, wait, you're the..." Elise is snapping. "Trickster God in legends, right?"

    "Legends are, of course, legends," he chuckles.

    "...I don't think I should have given you that ring," she says.

    Miles keeps staring at Loki with his head tilted to one side, like a confused dog. “Where...where do you work out?" he asks wonderingly. Loki smiles indulgently at him.

    "Wait,” Michael says. “You're supposed to be dead. How come you ain't?"

    "Well, that's the part where I am a bit of a trickster." He winks at Michael. "Legends are based on a grain of truth, after all.

    “For example, the legend of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. That is very real. And so is the Well of Mimir, deep within its roots. In the Well is the Eye of Odin, which he sacrificed to let him see into the future."

    "I want the ring back." Elise murmurs, unable to move but feeling some vague sense of unease. Is it because she gave up the ring? It was like a wedding ring!

    Loki continues. "But Odin's not the only one who put his eye in the well. Years ago, your employer came to Asgard and accessed Yggdrasil, and left his eye in the Well of Mimir. Nick Fury has never told you the story of why he has an eyepatch, has he?"

    Michael's gears turn for a minute, then click into place and ring an alarm bell in his head. "Aha! Fury planted his eye in the Mirror Well! Nailed it!" Julian holds his fist out towards Michael, and Michael baps that shit.

    "Or. Or! S'a pirate," Miles offers.

    Elise tilts her head at Loki. "Can...I have the ring back?" she tries again, muddled and confused.

    "Later," Loki says to Elise. "When I am done with what I need it for. Which is sneaking into Yggdrasil, past the Nidhogg, its serpent guardian."

    "I miss my family," Ryann says suddenly. Miles puts a consoling hand on his shoulder.

    Michael looks at Ryann. "Aww, damn, dude."

    Miles looks up at Loki. "’Nidhogg’ sounds racist."

    "You call it Shuma-Gorath," Loki says.

    "..." Elise tilts her head, confused. "No."

    "Aw, damn,” Michael exhales, “not that Cthulhu guy."

    "No, listen, shut up, everyone stop talking with your mouth holes," Elise says urgently. "I looked at Shuma-Gorath, we made eye contact, you can't go near him, or like, fuck with his shit. You can't!"

    Loki shakes his head. "Shuma-Gorath controls Yggdrasil. I can't possibly fight it, not even with your help. But with this ring, I can vanish from its sight, and do what I need to do. Then you can have the ring back, Elise."

    Elise shakes her head wildly. "No, no, no, no, no -" She doesn't even seem to know why she's so upset.

    "Elise, relax," Loki says irritatedly. Elise is trying to relax. But Shuma-Gorath is very upsetting. Primally upsetting. She’s shaking.

    "Dann graduates the Cadets in two months..." Ryann sits down. "I'm never home..."

    Loki makes a face at this. "Alright, that's enough, this is getting a bit maudlin."

    I love this. Loki drugs and mind-controls us, then gets exasperated that nobody wants to listen to his monologue.

    "Maudlin?” Michael asks. “I don't see any strings on us?"

    Loki shakes his head and waves his staff. "Go back to the great hall, have a raucous party, get more drunk, perhaps engage in non-lethal violence with random Asgardians. Make a show of it.

    "More importantly, forget all of this. When you awaken from your mead-induced stupor, you will forget the past 24 hours. No sorcery, no science, will restore the memories to your mind, as they will be wiped clean from your mind."


    "Sir!" Miles shouts. "Sir, sir, sir! Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!" Loki stares at him, confused.

    I have noted and logged this interaction in accordance with the Lorelei Protocol, despite the neurological activity that is directly contradicting this entry. Is this advisable or should I discontinue? Please answer exclusively in the form of a yes or no head gesture.

    "No no no shut up!" Miles doesn't understand the question but he's so sick of the talking.

    Acknowledgement received. Logging continued.

    Loki sighs. "Do you all understand?"

    Elise does understand. She hates it, she's unhappy, but she understands. She nods. She's not sure why she's unhappy. She's trying to relax. Everything's so muddy.

    Michael nods. Ryann stands up and shrugs acknowledgment. "Understood,” Julian says.

    "Nibnog, furries, drinks, sure," Miles nods. This heist is boring.

    "Miles." Elise says, trying to shake off this weird fugue. "Will you - will you party hard with me?"

    "Fuck yes," Miles throws up the horns and headbangs.

    Elise feels...better.

    The team leaves Loki, who vanishes as they go, and heads back to the great hall. As they arrive, the bards begin playing a cover of Richard Berry's "Louie Louie."

    The party continues on into the night. There are many revels. Many of them are deeply inappropriate and embarrassing. X-51 captures them in sparkling detail and, as a digital VI, is technically able to upload them remotely once Miles gets back to HQ.

    Loki does not appear again.

    A few hours into the partying, when the team is extremely intoxicated and a few of them passed out into unconsciousness, Brunnhilde and several Asgardian soldiers appear and take them into custody, accusing them of "espionage, theft, and treason,” although she specifies that treason only applies to Michael.

    This is when Miles loses consciousness and the recording ends.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    "Oh. Oh no." Miles' eyes shoot open and his face is a picture of horror.

    "Listen." Elise is desperate. "I'm getting married today. There's gotta be some kind of mistake, I'm marrying a Princess of Attilan - “ She crawls toward Brunnhilde. "So first of all, I didn't do anything bad. But second of all, if I did, I just - I need to call Crystalia of Attilan -"

    Brunnhilde barks at her. "Silence."

    Elise staggers back. "Please not so loud."

    "SHIELD is being contacted so that an advocate for your crimes from your world can be assigned to speak on your behalf,” Brunnhilde continues. “There will be a trial to determine your guilt."

    "Loki's alive and he has the ring!" Miles shouts. Brunnhilde stares at him.

    Elise cringes and holds her head when Miles shouts. "Can you please -"

    "What...what did you say?" Brunnhilde whispers.

    "Loki took Sigrun's form. He dosed us with...something. A love potion? It spiked our oxytocin levels. He suggested that we attack the guards. He took the ring. He said he's going past Nidhogg the World Serpent to retrieve...Nick Fury's eye, what the fuck.” Miles whirls to face the team. "Guys, Nick Fury traded his eye for magical powers."

    "I kinda suspected that,” Michael says. “I didn't know how to confront him about it."

    Elise covers her ears. "This is all really interesting but I am begging you to just say it a little quieter."

    "Don't say another word!" a new voice shouts.


    A woman in a suit walks down the hall of Asgard's dungeon, looking enormously out of place.

    "I'm Jennifer Walters, SHIELD Legal. My clients have nothing further to say to you directly, they will be speaking to me exclusively."

    Brunnhilde rolls her eyes and walks away.

    Jennifer Walters, attorney, is better known as Bruce Banner’s cousin, the She-Hulk, star of several somewhat meta and self-referential comedy comic series over the years.


    Walters looks at Miles after Brunnhilde walks out of earshot. "What were you saying about Loki and Fury?"

    "Loki mind-controlled us to steal the Ring of the Nibelung. You know, from the operas? He needs it to sneak past Nidhogg to steal Nick Fury's eye from the Well of...of Mimir? Sorry, I'm getting all this in recording." Miles puts a hand on his temple. "X-51 kept logging everything even after Loki tried to make us forget. Good work, X-51. I'm saying it out loud so people can hear."

    "Your VI recorded all this? That makes it evidence. I need your VI to upload everything to this data drive." She pulls out a drive from her purse, then she turns her head and yells over to Brunnhilde "I need you to drop the force-field and let me into the cell with my clients."

    Brunnhilde grumbles, and touches a console. "I have adjusted the field. It is now one-way. You can enter the field. You will not be able to leave until I allow you."

    Walters nods and walks into the cell. She hands the drive to Miles. "Here, do it. I'll use this to make a case to the Asgardians, maybe we can just avoid a trial altogether."

    Miles nods. "X-51, transfer it all." He sighs.

    Transfer complete.

    "Wait, wait, wait, about the wedding -"

    Walters looks at Elise. "Wedding's still on, you're not technically late...yet. We haven't told Attilan about this little fiasco, don't want to make an incident. If I'm good at my job—and let's be honest here, folks, I am—I can have you out of here for lunch and you can get married just as planned. Your wedding is important to SHIELD too, Ms. Arnell. Not as important as it is to you, of course, but still important."

    "Thank you," Elise smiles. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I really - the light is a lot, I really need to puke."

    Walters yells back to Brunnhilde. "I need out. My client also needs a bucket and some water." She nods at the team. "I'll get this done, folks. Sit tight."

    Brunnhilde lets her out. Elise is provided with a bucket and ample water, which she chugs in between bouts of vomiting.

    Time passes...slowly. Ryann sits against the wall, motionless, eyes closed. Everything hurts, everywhere. Julian huddles in the corner, feeling sorry for himself. After an hour, Walters and Brunnhilde return.

    Brunnhilde clears her throat. "The All-Father permits you an audience." Behind her, Walters gives the team a thumbs up and a smile.

    Elise holds out her bucket of puke for Brunnhilde to take. "Thank you!" Centurion stands up and takes the bucket from Elise. He uses it.

    "Oh, God!" Elise stares. "I had my senses on!"

    "Argh," he mumbles.

    "You're like, twice my size, you should be half as fucked up!"

    "Mass is relative." He throws up again.

    Julian leans against the corner and backs himself against the wall, using the support to stand up.

    Miles stands up slowly, carefully. "Thank you, Ms. Walters," he says huskily. "What will the All-Father see us for? Is this to plead our case in person, or?"

    "The All-Father would not say,” Brunnhilde says. “Your advocate presented your evidence to him, and he requested you be brought before him."

    "Brunnhilde, may I ask where Sigrun is?” Michael says. “Did Loki hurt her?"

    "I will not answer your questions." She deactivates the field. "This way."

    As the group leaves the cell, Walters leans in to Michael and whispers "Sigrun was deployed on a mission several days ago and has not reported in for days. I don't know more. They don't tell me much."

    He grimaces. "Thank you for telling me. Hopefully she's alright."

    "So, Miles, you said something about a Nidhogg?" Elise says. "Isn't that a Pokemon?"

    Miles nods. "It sounds like one. But it's a Norse snake thing, I think."


    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    They're led up from the dungeons into the palace proper, to the throne room, to face Odin the Allfather, King of Asgard. Michael's met him before, but the rest certainly have not.


    Michael takes a knee, and Centurion follows suit. Elise hides behind Miles.

    "Rise, and step forward." The All-Father bids them come before him, and regards the team with his one eye. "I knew this day would come. I did not know when, merely that it would."

    Miles attempts a rueful smile. "Well, uh, having just seen it, I...apologize?"

    Odin smiles. "Unnecessary, it was inevitable." He waves a hand. "You are pardoned for your accused crimes, under charge that you will serve the Throne of Asgard to resolve the crisis to which you have been party."

    Elise's brow furrows. She doesn't remember anything from last night beyond some vague sense of terror? At some point? "So we need to stop...Loki, right, the trickster god? From...stealing an eyeball? From Nidhogg?"

    "And get some ring back, right?" Michael adds.

    Odin looks at his guards, and to Brunnhilde and Walters. "You are all of you dismissed from my presence."

    Brunnhilde opens her mouth to object, but says nothing and leaves, as does the room full of guards. It's just Freedom Force and Odin. He waves his hand again and a hologram appears of the previous night's events, pulled from X-51's records.

    "I cannot restore your memories fully. Loki's sorcery is potent. But I can grant you a vestige based on what was kept from this device, at your choice."

    "Show us." Elise grits her teeth. "I hate mind fuckery."

    "You and me both sister," Michael says. He nods at Odin.

    "I guess I gotta know," Ryann says.

    Miles nods. "Please, sir."

    Julian looks hesitant, then lets out a sigh. "Yeah. I guess."

    Odin gestures, and the team is given a flood of memories from X-51's recording of events. Because Miles uploaded everything to the data drive, this includes Miles' senses and emotions (but not his thoughts) during the time, which unfortunately includes things like exactly how Loki's soft, supple lips made Miles feel.

    Michael looks side-eyed at Miles and shudders. Ryann looks at Miles. He nods. Miles nods solemnly back.

    Elise's eyes widen. "Wait.” She punches Miles' arm again, this time not jokingly. "YOU FILMED IT? YOU FILMED ME KISSING A LADY AND SAID IT WAS HOT?"

    "Was it...not?" he says.

    Odin clears his threat.

    "Yeah, but you shouldn't fetishize lesbi -" Elise blanches at the sound from Odin and straightens her back.

    "My errant son has managed to fool me, and I am not sure how he has done so. This is...troubling. I truly did not know he lived. You can understand how this is disquieting."

    "Odin, sir, I can't - I looked at Shuma-Gorath, in the eye, I can't -" Elise is rambling. "I have to get married, sir, I -"

    "The Nidhogg is not something to concern yourself with," he says.

    "Elise," Miles says, in his calmest voice. "It's okay.” He faces Odin. “But as you can see, sir, we certainly understand some of your...disquiet."

    "If you are to stop Loki on his mad quest you need more information than you have been given," Odin says. "About Loki, about Asgard. About the truths of this place. And our people.

    "You know of the Celestials, who came to your world and raised some of your people up as Eternal, who became our ancestors. In that age, before there was an Asgard, they were the Aesir.

    "What you do not know is that there was another such tribe, made from your people by another Celestial host, called the Vanir. Not Eternal but Deviant. Unlike the Aesir, the Vanir did not rely upon the Norn Stones to ascend to power. Their bodies manifested their own powers, and some had twisted forms that made them monstrous. Trolls, ogres, giants, and other things.

    "My father, King Bor, waged war upon the Vanir, until their kingdoms were shattered and their great capital, Atlantis, descended below the waves of your ocean."

    "Whoa," Miles says.

    "The Atlanteans survived, as did some other Vanir. Others became part of Asgard. When I became King, I made peace with the Vanir, with Atlantis. I even welcomed some into my own house. But it was too late. Some of the Vanir, the Dark Elves we called them, they formed their own city which you call Thule, and sought out the power of a being from beyond this reality as a way to lash out at us.

    "We warred for a time, but not before Shuma-Gorath, the Serpent, the Nidhogg, seized control of Yggdrasil.

    "Asgard is still able to draw upon Yggdrasil's power, but we cannot venture into it any further. No more can we learn from its technology, benefit from its gifts, not unless we brave the Nidhogg through stealth or subterfuge, as I did when I placed my eye in the Well of Mimir, or as your Nick Fury did when he did the same.

    "Loki plans to steal Fury's eye, no doubt so that he can lead Fury down a false path. If Fury relies on his eye's wisdom as I have, he will not know that Loki has taken his eye and will believe he is seeing the future. But he will be seeing a future Loki wants him to see, and will be acting to make that happen. I do not believe this will go well for your world."

    Miles rubs his temples. "What is the Yggdrasil? I assume it's not really a tree. Is it a Celestial spaceship?"

    Odin nods at Miles. "Forgive the florid language of my people. The Yggdrasil is indeed a vessel, the vessel, of the Celestials who came to Earth so long ago. Abandoned now but for its automated defenses and Shuma-Gorath's spiritual presence."

    What a wonderful lore drop. A lot of this is confirmation of stuff we the players had already suspected, mixed in with some nifty out-of-left-field surprises (the Atlanteans are Deviants!). And another nice tying-off-knots by mirroring the real-life Aesir/Vanir dichotomy with Marvel’s long-established Eternals/Deviants split.

    "Whoa," Michael says.

    "Holy sh-" Julian coughs. "Excuse me."

    Miles nods. "...Wow." He composes himself, straightens up. "What would you have us do?" His brow quirks in surprise at his own King James diction.

    "Miles I super appreciate your hustle but sir, Your Majesty, Odin, um, I'm due to get married," Elise says again. "Today."

    "We can save the world and get you to the church on time," Miles says.

    "Can we?" Elise tangles her hands up in her hair and begins to pace, shaking her head.

    Odin continues. "No true Asgardian can enter Yggdrasil now. Not without powerful sorcery to hide themselves as Loki has done, and Loki has stolen the Andvaranaut. But you are not true Asgardians. A true Asgardian would draw the eye of the Nidhogg upon them immediately. Another being is beneath its notice.

    “You need to stop Loki. Heimdall can direct you to Yggdrasil with the Bifrost, and retrieve you when your task is done. While there, you are outside space and time itself. For the rest of us, it will be barely an instant between when you leave and when you return."

    "Sir, can you just tell SHIELD while we're gone what's up?" Elise says. "So if I get eaten by Shu- Nidhogg, they know?"

    "You won't fail," he says.

    Elise perks up. "You saw it?"

    Odin nods. "Go to the Bifrost. Heimdall will send you on your way."

    "Alright, gang!" Elise lowers her voice. "Miles, I am absolutely still mad at you for recording that."

    "Hey, it got us out. And it's the reason you're going to get married," Miles murmurs where only she can hear. "I'm sorry that you had to feel...whatever you felt, though." Elise shrugs.

    The team is led to the Bifrost. They are escorted by Brunnhilde and a dozen guards, and also Jennifer Walters, who informs the team that she's been briefed, and will update Clay accordingly.

    "Tell Clay it was NOT MY FAULT" Elise calls out to Walters as she is led away.


    Freedom Force arrives at the Bifrost. Heimdall greets them as they enter.


    "You will be sent to Yggdrasil. When you need to return, call to me. I will hear and see."

    "...Yay..." Elise mutters. "Wait! Don't we need weapons?"

    Miles nods. "How do we stop Loki?"

    "With weapons." Heimdall gestures to a rack of armaments. Most of them are not of Earth. There's also some of the team’s normal equipment, such as Elise's harness.

    Michael takes two Asgardian swords. "Sweet." Ryann puts his wrist gauntlet back on.

    Elise equips her pistols and harness, stripping with no shame in front of the group to strap it on. She also takes a spear.

    "That spear is also an energy weapon," Heimdall points out to Elise.

    "What's that mean?"

    "It...shoots energy," he says. He shows Elise how to activate it.


    Miles raises a hand. "Do you have any of those...strength gauntlets? Like what Loki gave Elise last night?" Heimdall nods and hands two bracers to Miles.

    "Oh! Oh! Me too!" Elise says. There are more pairs of bracers, and she takes two, as does Julian, who surveys the selection and also opts to take a spear.

    "You know what? I don't know why I was so scared," Elise says. "This owns. This owns bones."

    "Super strong high five!" Miles extends his arm outward. With a crack like thunder, Elise high-fives him, then Michael. Miles twirls his extending arm out like a whip, high-fiving everyone within range.

    "Are you all prepared?" Heimdall asks.

    Julian nods. "Ready - I blame this hangover on Loki, and he's gonna pay."

    "Yeah,” Miles says. “Let's do this thing."

    "Yeah, I'm ready," Elise says. "i'm gonna kick Loki in the dick, stare down Nidhogg, get the ring, save the day, then go home and get married."

    Heimdall nods. "Loki deserves it."

    "Yeah, he pretended to be a sexy lady, love potion'd me, then kissed me. Impolite." Elise pauses. "Miles, forward that footage to my home PC."

    "You heard the woman, X-51."

    Heimdall places his sword in the Bifrost and the team are transported. It is unlike anything any except Behemoth have experienced before.


    "I HATE THIS - “ Elise is shouting. “I HATE THIS - I HATE BEYOND SPACE AND TIME!"

    "This is AWESOME," Miles yells.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    They arrive inside a massive space station.

    The scale involved is vast, the technology incomprehensibly advanced. In that regard it reminds them all of the station built around the Cosmic Cube.


    "Alright, shut up, shut up, everyone shut up, I'm gonna go on a walk." Elise reaches out to find where Loki is, if he's here. She has a hard time making sense of the place but it's so empty of anything but her and her team it doesn't take her long to smell...something else.

    A person. Loki. He's here.

    "Found you, motherfucker," Elise mutters. "C'mon, follow me." She takes off at a jog, head tilted to the side as she sniffs.

    Freedom Force follows her into the labyrinthine corridors of the massive station.


    Miles takes off, ascending four meters into the air and keeping a wary eye on their surroundings. X-51, as we move through this ship, I'd like you to scan and analyze as much of its technology as you can. Make contact with any networked computers that you can. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to gather intelligence.

    Yes, sir.

    As Elise focuses on tracking Loki, she lets her harness carry her to conserve energy, joining Miles in the air. Beneath them, Julian gently moves himself through the center of the corridor with telekinesis, floating at an even pace in a prone position, taking in the sights.

    Behemoth plods forward below them. Michael can feel an energy ebb and flow here, a warmth to it that is familiar, like it's a part of him. "Definitely Celestial." He shudders at the weird feeling.

    Centurion advances cautiously, checking his corners, recording everything on his gauntlet computer.

    Elise leads the team to a shaft that leads thousands of kilometers downwards into a glowing light. The shaft itself is at least a kilometer across.


    Elise stops a couple of steps after the drop, so deep is her concentration, and she yelps and backpedals. "Okay, okay, okay, woah, let me...let me try and track him from here."

    Loki went straight down and into the light. Elise sighs. "Hey, Miles, can you have X-51 film this?" She backs up a few steps, and then does her best elegant dive down the shaft.

    Without powered flight, she hits terminal velocity, and realizes this shaft of thousands of kilometers will take...many, many hours to fall to the bottom. "Fuck!" She maneuvers, switching her harness on. "Please, God, don't let me puke -"

    The team jets down after her. "Thank fuck we can all fly now," Behemoth rumbles.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    After several hours, they finally approach the light and push past it, coming to a vaulted chamber. A colossal pyramid at the center is the origin of the light.


    Elise stops and sniffs the air. "Where are you, you invisible motherfucker?" Loki flew in through the top of the pyramid, in through the light. She jets ahead after him.

    X-51 speaks up. Sir, that light is a datastream. It contains hundreds of zettabytes of data, it is impossible for me to interpret or download.

    Understood, Miles thinks. Can we take even a small sample?

    Yes, sir. I have done s-SIR I AM BEING SCANNED

    From which direction? By what?
    "Guys, something's probing X-51..."

    The station. It has its own AI. Please stand by…

    The station AI has deemed me unfit and incapable of effective communication. I am being upgraded. Please stand by… There is a long pause. Upgrade complete.

    Miles’ eyes widen. Summary of expanded capabilities.

    I am now a fully sapient artificial intelligence upgraded with Celestial dataform matrices and cyber-warfare capabilities. Sir, the station AI has identified itself as the Traveller. Apparently the Asgardians call it Ratatoskr, the Messenger of Yggdrasil.

    "Holy shit," Miles whispers. Hi, X-51. It's a pleasure to meet you again. Can you communicate our good will to the Traveller?

    I have done so, it was necessary to prevent my elimination.

    Miles nods. Is it willing to help us detain Loki?

    Negative, it considers Loki's actions to be value-neutral to its operating parameters. But it will not stop us, either.

    Miles thinks. Very well. Ask it if it's amenable to trades of information. Anything we can bring back of Celestial technology is worth it.

    I will engage in negotiations as we continue our mission. I am capable of multitasking
    I will update you as necessary.

    Thank you,
    Miles thinks. We're in your debt, X-51.

    I am aware, sir.

    ...Good luck, then. Carry on!

    X-51 may be able to multitask, but Elise cannot. She has sprinted ahead, through the pyramid of light, to try and find Loki. She comes into a chamber that is over a kilometer high, floor to ceiling.


    The tank squatting in the center of the room is half a kilometer in diameter and contains some kind of ferro-fluid, through which metallic substances float and bob.

    It looks sort of like a giant lava lamp.

    "...Weird." Elise sniffs the air.

    She can smell him. When she tries to look in his direction, she can see a very small (relative to the room) holographic console active near the base of the massive tank. The console is human-sized, which makes it look puny compared to the scale of the room, and it seems to be active and responding to some kind of command, although no-one is next to it.

    "Hey, dipshit!" Sensate charges at the smell of Loki. She doesn't want to fire projectiles near the tank.

    "Elise!!" Julian shouts after her.

    Energy blasts from an unseen source in the direction of the console and strikes Elise dead-on. The kinetic barrier of her harness absorbs most of the blast, but she is knocked out of the air. She's not hurt.

    She kips up onto her feet. "I can smell you, idiot!" She pulls her spear, which telescopes to its full length.

    Phoenix scans for Loki. He should be able to find him; there are only six people in this vast space. But there’s nothing there.

    "Behemoth, head down that way. Even if he's invisible, your armor doesn't care." Blasting down into the pyramid, Machine Man tersely directs everyone across the battlefield from cover to cover, minimizing the team's exposure and slowly drawing their unseen enemy into an enfilade.

    Centurion's hands and eyes begin to glow red as he tries to use the Nova Force to sense Loki's mass. The ring is incredibly powerful in terms of concealment, but it can't conceal Loki's physical presence. Ryann clenches his fists and particles of debris fly from the surfaces of the room toward Loki's mass, creating a shadowy outline around the trickster god that everyone else can target.

    Elise pulls her ICERs. "Eat shit!" She unloads on the silhouette. Being hit with two full magazines of ICER rounds can stun even an Asgardian, and Loki staggers backward, leaning on his staff for support.

    Miles launches his extending arm forward in a super-strong rocket punch, socking Loki in the jaw, who falls down to one knee. Behemoth blasts forward and tackles Loki, slamming him into the deck and pounding him until he falls unconscious.

    Elise kneels next to Loki and pulls out a tube of lipstick. She painstakingly draws a dick onto his face. "Now we're even." Julian takes a photo.

    "X-51, please get every moment of this in maximum fidelity. It's one history will want to know about."

    Yes sir.

    "We should probably tell Thor, huh," Elise says. "Oh! He'll be at the wedding!"

    Behemoth wanders over to the console, trying to see what Loki was up to, but the interface is utterly incomprehensible, as beyond Asgardian technology as the Asgardians are from Earth’s.

    X-51 speaks up. Sir, this appears to be Mimir's Well. I have been inquiring with the Traveller about its nature and function.

    What have you learned?
    Miles asks.

    It is connected to a Celestial psycho-historic calculation matrix, and is able to intuit the future based on probabilistic outcomes of existent data. Interfacing with the Well for a non-Celestial can happen at a distance through a bio-mechanical interface.

    In the case of both Odin and Fury, they left one of their eyes in the Well itself, and added a Celestial implant into their eye sockets that is connected directly to the Well and that feeds them a datastream. However, it is not entirely compatible with their neurology and over a long enough period of time will cause irreversible neurological damage.

    Machine Man pauses, tantalized. Would...would anything within us qualify as a biomechanical interface?

    X-51 pauses. Theorizing…

    Miles has learned one important lesson from Vlad. Grab That Power. In this one session his VI has become an AI, he’s gotten bracers of strength, and now he’s thinking about plugging into a space god’s see-the-future computer.

    The term “psychohistory” was coined by the great science fiction writer Isaac Asimov for his series of Foundation stories in the early 1940s. The idea is that sufficiently advanced social science (economics, psychology, etc) could predict future trends in society the way that meteorology lets us make fairly accurate predictions about the weather. In the stories, the scientist who invents psychohistory learns that galactic civilization is due to collapse into barbarism and war, and he starts a “Foundation” of scientists, artists, and historians to keep knowledge and hope alive through the dark times.

    Obviously the Celestials would have perfected that technology, and the results would be indistinguishable from having an actual magic crystal ball.

    Yes, sir. Because of my Celestial upgrade, I would be able to establish a link with the Well and receive a datastream from it. It would not function identically to leaving an eye behind, but it would also not have the potential for neurological damage.

    That sounds ideal, X-51. Even if it's not the same degree of advantage, I'm happy to not incur that kind of risk. Let's do it.

    Elise, having realized in a panic that they will have to present Loki to Odin, is trying to wipe the dick off with a Kleenex. "Why did I buy the kiss proof lipstick?" she moans. "It's not coming off."

    "Leave it," Miles says. "He's earned it."

    "Okay. Okay! Can we get out of here before we run into anything we don't want to, so I can get married?"

    "There's no rush," Miles murmurs. "We may never be back here."

    "You know who else hangs out here? Shuma-Gorath! Have you seen that fucker, eye to eye?"

    "No, and I don't want to. Not yet. But we're beneath its notice right now. We should take the opportunity to look around, while it can't see us."

    Elise gives a low, keening noise and paces.

    "We're in a Celestial ship with unlimited time,” Michael tells her. “That opportunity doesn't come around often."

    “When this fucks us, I want an apology," she says.

    X-51 speaks. It would require a sample of the Well's ferrofluid nanostratum, which you can obtain from the console Loki was interacting with. You will have to drink it, which can then be bio-processed by your body and I can integrate it into your neurology.

    Very well.
    Miles steps over to the console and looks in puzzlement at the arcane interface.

    Allow me, sir. X-51 interacts with the console wirelessly. A small container appears from the console, glowing orange-yellow.

    While Miles works, the team surveys their surroundings, basking in the alien immensity of the place. Elise crosses her legs, sits back, and opens her senses, just trying to pick up as much of her surroundings as she can.

    Miles takes the container. "Bottoms up," he says, and drinks it.

    "You're insane," Elise says cheerily. "You're gonna get like, ten kinds of cancer."

    Michael stares. "Miles, why'd you drink the lava lamp?"

    But Miles doesn’t hear him. Miles is somewhere else now. He sees everything.




    Normalizing sensory input. Miles returns to his body and can sense and feel normally. Interpreting data stream. Updates will occur as needed.

    Miles gasps as his eyes fly open, his consciousness alighting in his body again. "I. Saw. Everything."

    "Welcome to the fuckin' club," Elise says. "Did Eternity give you a handy?"

    "This place is laid bare to me,” Miles says. “Behold!" He project a holographic representation of what he saw of Yggdrasil.

    Elise stares, trying to map the projection to what she feels all around her. She can feel a presence lurking inside the Yggdrasil. Something...searching. Looking. If she searches any might see her.

    She grits her teeth. "Miles? You said you wanted intel, right? Be ready to pull us out of here."

    "Show us, Elise,” he says.

    She closes her eyes and then searches deeper. She can feel a power somewhere in the station. Something that reminds her of the Cosmic Cube.

    "I can feel...I can's strong, it's warping everything around it, just like, a gravity well of power." Elise tilts her head to the side, probing deeper to see if she can think of what it is. "Engine, maybe? This was a ship."

    "Odin said Shuma-Gorath was an invader from another reality,” Miles says. “It may have brought its own physical laws along with it."

    "Okay, cool. Let's leave." Elise grimaces. "I mean. Look, it doesn't feel wrong like Shuma-Gorath. It's just a thing, like the Cube. Just like the Cube."

    Centurion walks over to Loki and takes off the ring.

    There is...a shaking. A vibration, coming from everywhere, that they can feel down in their bones. They realize very quickly it’s not the station that’s shaking.

    It’s them. They are shaking, inside.

    Elise stares at Ryann. "...What did you do?"

    "Put the ring back on him!" Miles cries.

    Loki vanishes.

    "It was what kept Nidhogg from seeing him!" Miles yells. “We need to move!"

    "Uhh...whoops," Ryann says.

    Elise shrieks. "HEIMDALL!"

    "HEIMDALL!" Michael joins his voice to hers.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Just before Elise's feet leaves the ground, she reaches out with her senses - is Loki dead? She gets an answer



    Elise lands in Asgard, having had her entire suite of senses open for the journey between realities. Shuma-Gorath's words ring in her ears. She starts to fall, clutching her head.

    Miles is distant and abstracted for a moment, then sees Elise crumple up and races to her side, grabbing her before she hits the ground. "Hey. Hey, Elise," He whispers. "Hey. It's okay. You're gonna get married."

    Elise clings to Miles. "IT spoke to me, Miles."

    Heimdall looks at the team. "Did you defeat Loki?"

    "Yes?" Centurion is still holding the ring.

    "Did you retrieve the Andvaranaut?" Heimdall holds out his hand. Centurion hands over the ring.

    "Loki serves!" Elise shrieks, half hysterical, still clinging onto Miles to stay standing.

    Heimdall nods, and nods at Elise. "Then it is as the All-Father has foreseen it. You are pardoned for your crimes, and I am ready to transport you to your world."

    Miles holds Elise tight. "Shh. It's okay. You're safe."

    Elise nods, taking a few deep breaths. She gives herself a few slaps across the face, shaking her head. "Alright, back in the game, let's skedaddle." She steps nervously in place. "I gotta get back to get married!"

    Miles turns to Heimdall. "He saw this? Heimdall, please convey our gratitude to the All-Father and our apologies to the Asgardians we...inconvenienced. And, um. Tell Lorelei I said hello and I hope her rehabilitation is proceeding well."

    Heimdall nods, and puts his hand on Elise's shoulder. "I wish you well in your marriage, and that you do your bride honor as a warrior." Elise beams.

    Miles smiles and nods as he takes his place. "Most people's wedding headaches are pretty boring. You get a story you're going to tell your little grandeggs."

    "...Eggs?" she says.

    Miles shrugs. "I mean, I don't know how Inhumans work."

    Heimdall invokes the Bifrost.


    Freedom Force are on the landing pad of the Avengers Tower within an arcane sigil burned into the pad by the energies of the Bifrost.

    Clay comes running out. "What the actual hell! Don't Bifrost into the middle of the HQ! Good lord, people!"

    Elise sways forward. "We got love potioned by Loki in order to do a scheme," she says, and then pauses. "Shuma-Gorath talked to me. Anyways, we're here now!"

    "I got the report and watched the tape from Walters," Clay says. "I got Hook to help me selectively erase my memory."

    Elise stops short. "Oh. From what?"

    "The tape."

    "Oh. What was wrong with the tape?" she asks. "Was it the Miles boner?"

    Clay stares at her. She is genuinely oblivious. "Elise, you were hanging upside down topless from a statue of an Asgardian warrior firing two ICERs in the air singing ‘Still’ by Geto Boys."

    Elise claps. "Anyways! Uh." She rubs the back of her head, suddenly embarrassed. "I gotta go get dressed?"

    "Yes, your tailor is here from Attilan, you can get dressed on the Zephyr, all of you," Clay points to the waiting plane. "We have to go."

    "Oh! Wait! I just want to say," Elise clasps her hands over her heart and gives Clay a beatific smile. "I think I understand your whole lesbian phase with Hand now! Okay, okay, I gotta get my suit on."

    "...Jesus fucking Christ," he says.

    "Gotta set up an appointment with Hook myself now," Michael says.

    Julian's mouth hangs open. Following his gaze past Clay, Elise suddenly notices that the rest of STRIKE-COMMS is there. In earshot. All dressed to the nines. Tuxes and dresses.

    MODOC even has a very small bow-tie.

    She turns an interesting color. "Okay!" she says, and then sprints onto the Zephyr.

    Julian heads into Avengers Tower to take a quickie shower and scrub down. He spritzes some cologne, towels off, and hurriedly heads for the Attilan tailor in a fresh pair of skivvies.

    Miles messages Carol. We're home. Don't believe everything you hear about where we were. I'm looking forward to seeing you in that ensemble we picked out.

    He gets a message back. Did you bang Lorelei y/n

    N, he replies, but I took hi-res video of Elise making out with Sigrun except Sigrun was actually shapeshifted Loki.

    The reply comes. ok lol cool see you on the plane AOqQNft.png. Miles sends back a heart emoji and a 100 emoji. Always gotta one-up.

    Armoring down, Michael pulls out his phone and fires off a text to Sigrun. Hey, I know you're on mission, just want to know if you're safe. Lots to talk about.

    He gets a reply. No mission. Was excuse to surprise you at wedding. See you there. He sighs and beams to himself.

    The members of STRIKE and COMMS file onto the Zephyr.

    Elise emerges from the Zephyr bathroom in a sharp suit, then flops down in a flight seat next to Clay. She shows him the bracers and the spear.

    "Did you...steal those?"

    Elise shrugs. "They didn't ask for them back!"

    Clay nods. "Good enough. Good job, agent."

    Michael looks at his swords and chuckles at this. "Heh, sweet."

    "Check it." Elise turns to her side and socks Miles on the arm.


    The Zephyr takes off, loaded up with STRIKE-COMMS agents.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Miles gets cleaned and dressed, then asks to see Clay privately. They go off to one of the side-cabins of the Zephyr.

    "So, some stuff came to light," Miles opens. "It turns out that Odin got his 'magic foresight' from implanting his eye in the Well of Mimir, which is actually a giant space-age computer that does psychohistorical predictions. Oh, and the Well is located on Yggdrasil, which isn't a big tree but a giant Celestial starship.”

    Clay nods. "I'm with you so far. Given how Asgardians make everything into a metaphor this isn't surprising."

    “And, uh, I guess Odin wasn't the only person to lose an eye doing this. You copy?”

    Clay folds his arms. "I mean it explains a lot of Nick's behavior. Why he just...does things."

    "Right?" Miles says. “That's what Loki was trying to steal. The boss's eye. I thought it was to jack his foresight, but I guess it would actually let him feed Fury false intel disguised as precognition. So we should be aware of that as a vulnerability."

    "Okay. Anything else to report? Elise mentioned Shuma-Gorath in her very Elise way."

    "Yeah. Shuma-Gorath is what the Asgardians mean when they talk about Nidhogg. It lives in the Yggdrasil and keeps the Asgardians out. They can still draw power from the ship—that's where their abilities come from—but they can't use its tech anymore." Miles hesitates. "But now I can.

    "X-51 made contact with the Traveller, the ship's AI, and it gave X-51 an upgrade to let us communicate with it. And X-51 helped me gain my own access to the Well, without losing an eye.


    Clay makes a face. It is not a happy face.

    "I know, sir," Miles says.

    "Is X-51...sapient?"

    Miles nods. "Yes. I'm going to introduce it to Vision. I think it could benefit from having know. A peer. I don't intend to repeat our mistake with Vlad."

    Clay nods. "Yes. This is a good idea."

    From another cabin, Elise listens in on this conversation without getting up.

    "And X-51's new cyberwarfare suite might be what saves us when we finally move against Vlad," Miles says.

    Clay gives a “no more” hand gesture and then taps his ear.

    Miles grimaces and nods. "I mean, assuming it ever comes up."

    "Vision's a good egg. He's turned out alright. Him and X-51 can learn from each other."

    Miles nods. "That's what I'm thinking. I want to show X-51 that we're all stronger together."

    Clay nods. "It's an important lesson. Alright, Mason, anything further?"

    "One last thing. X-51 mentioned that the link with the Well causes...neural decay. Not mine, because I don't have a direct biological link. But for Odin. And for, you know. So we need to be alert to that."

    Clay taps the side of his temple. This conversation's going upstairs now.

    Miles nods.

    Nick...isn't doing well.

    Miles blanches. ...shit.

    Only the department heads, and now you, know. I just assumed it was age and the stuff he's done to his body over the years. Now you tell me this and...well, okay.

    Miles holds up a hand. There may be something we can do, sir. I have two ideas. One, we get Fury's eye out of the Well. Or, if that doesn't work—if the decay doesn't reverse—the Yggdrasil is powered by a Cosmic Cube.

    Clay nods. I'll take it into consideration. And talk to Victoria about it. We'll figure something out. Thanks, Miles.

    Sure thing, boss. See you at the wedding.
    Miles salutes and leaves. Clay nods.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    The team arrives at the Getaway, the doorway to Attilan.

    The Zephyr unloads all of STRIKE-COMMS in their finest, who are given the option of a new special anti-nausea inhaler to take before entering the fold-gate that SCI-TECH has created. It is recommended so they don't toss all over their tuxes.

    "Nice. Progress marches on." Miles takes the inhaler with gusto, followed by Behemoth and Julian. Elise takes it a little too eagerly. It's been a rough day in terms of time, dimension, and nausea.

    She peers around. "I can't wait to see Jeremiah's face when he realizes what he missed -"

    Jeremiah is there. In a tux.

    "Wait," she stares. "No. Why."

    All of STRIKE-COMMS is there. Even MODOC! Especially MODOC.

    "I - I thought I left special instructions."

    Clay puts his hand on Elise's shoulder and leans in. "Crystalia invited everyone in STRIKE-COMMS. She actually likes Jeremiah. Also, your side of the ceremony would look a little...thin compared to hers. She has a big family."

    "People like Jeremiah? Even people I like?" Elise is stunned. "Maybe I've been unkind to Jeremiah." Clay just slowly nods.

    Everyone gradually filters through the fold-gate.

    Elise looks for Crystalia as soon as she arrives on the other side, but apparently the princess is still with maids getting prepared.

    Elise tugs nervously on her suit jacket. It is an Attilan style, elaborately fancy suit. "Okay. Okay. Miles, you're my best man. Do I look okay? Clay, you're gonna walk me down the aisle, right? Julian, does my hair look okay? MICHAEL IS MY SUIT SHARP ENOUGH."

    Miles asks X-51 to scan Elise's garment and let him know about any adjustments that can be made for a more proper fit.

    No, sir, the Attilan tailors are impeccable. Apparently her suit was woven by an arachnid Inhuman who is considered a master of his craft.

    Miles grins. Nice! I'll wait to tell Elise until after the ceremony, though.

    This is advisable.

    Elise is hyperventilating. Michael walks up and puts his hand on her shoulder. "Elise, you'll be fine. You've clowned Kraven multiple times. You've headshotted a super-Skrull. You've stared Eternity in the face. You've got this."

    "Your hair looks fantastic," Julian adds.

    The guests are led to the palace by Alpha-Primitives.


    As the procession travels up the city streets, one of the Alpha-Primitives leans over to Miles. "We are thankful to the liberators."

    Miles smiles and nods at the Alpha-Primitive. "No thanks necessary. Just pay it forward when you encounter someone in need of justice."

    The Alpha-Primitive nods. "This is wisdom."

    They enter the palace, and there are many guests already there for Crystalia's side, which is the entire House Amaquelin and several members of House Agon, including the King and Queen.

    Miles finds Carol in the crowd and accompanies her to their seats. "It was a weird day," he whispers sotto voce as they sit.

    Elise takes a few deep breaths, a long draw of her flask, and straightens her shoulders, surveying the room. She sees the Fantastic Four on her side. Ben also has a plus-one with him. Elise doesn't recognize her.

    She waves excitedly at the Four (+1). Susan and Johnny and Ben wave back. Reed waves when Susan nudges him. Ben whispers to his plus-one and she waves.

    Rude, Elise thinks at Reed.

    Everyone filters to their seats. Elise can tell Susan looks extremely nervous, as does Clay. They both are trying to hide it.

    Crystalia arrives. Her dress is extremely elaborate. Parts of it float with anti-gravity.

    Elise squeezes Clay's hand real quick. "You're good. It's fine."

    "Mhm." Clay steps forward and walks Elise up the aisle.

    The ceremony is long. It's also different from Earth ceremonies, but vaguely similar. There are still vows exchanged but they're very...militant. A lot of language about joining houses, defending each other in war, standing beside each other on the field of battle, things of that nature.

    It's only after those vows that Elise and Crystalia exchange a second set of vows, as Elise is bound to Crystalia as her consort. For Attilan, love and marriage are separate concepts, and being her wife and lover are separate notions with separate contracts. Elise is agreeing to both.

    Elise, at the front of the room, looks relaxed and happy. Comfortable in a way those present have rarely see her.

    Sir. X-51 chimes in Miles' mind. This marriage will politically compromise SHIELD as an organization and be used against it.

    Miles’ eyebrows climb. Elaborate on the nature of the compromise.

    X-51 begins. The United States government is preparing to turn the public against SHIELD with upcoming legislation and direct moves against SHIELD. This event will be discovered by ONE and the US government, and will be used to paint SHIELD as a hostile pan-global new world order.

    SHIELD is entering into a political marriage with the Throne of Attilan, knowingly and willingly. Nick Fury has made agreements with King Agar. This will be discovered on a long enough timeline.

    That makes sense. Miles nods. Recalculate based on our prioritizing the dismantling of ONE in the immediate future.

    Recalculating. Please stand by.
    A pause. If ONE is disassembled prior to this move, there is no issue with this marriage.

    Miles’ eyes narrow. Very well. We now know what we need to do. Let's begin looking at our task list in that light going forward.

    Understood. I'll begin drawing up a task list for dismantling ONE. Updates will come as necessary.

    The ceremony is complete.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Guests are led away to the reception, which is actually quite lovely, as it turns out. There is, in fact, an open bar as advertised, which the members of STRIKE-COMMS dive on.

    Elise stands with Crystalia, holding a glass of champagne and grinning from ear to ear. Miles brings Carol to the bar. "What's your poison, hun?" Julian grabs a pair of champagne glasses for himself and Kane.

    Michael brings Sigrun a mug of ale and smiles. She smiles back and takes the mug, kissing Michael passionately. Michael in his surprise, falls and crushes the table. "Whoops."

    Elise smiles at the pair. It seems like everyone on STRIKE has found someone to love! Except MODOC. Which is...good, she thinks.

    For his part, MODOC is actually quite popular with the Alpha-Primitives and is talking to them. Miles nods approvingly at him playing with his new friends.

    Clay stands off in the corner talking to Susan. They are both drinking...water.

    Miles stakes out a table for the couples of STRIKE. He waves Julian and Kane and Michael and SIgrun over. "It's long past time we all got together like this," he says. "Our weird little family."

    Julian laughs. "I'll drink to that."

    Elise beams. "Crystalia, you've met Isabel, right? And, um, this is Sigrun."

    Crystalia smiles at Kane. "Oh yes, Izzy sometimes flies me to the Azores when Lockjaw isn't around."

    Miles shoots a gaze at Elise, tracing a line from Crystalia to Carol. His look is expectant.

    "Aaaand this is Carol," Elise adds hastily. "Carol is...nice!" Miles nods, satisfied. "Oh wait you've met Carol ha ha ha because she went to Attilan too ha ha.”

    Crystalia giggles. "I've met most of your co-workers, sweetheart. The only one I don't really know I think his name is? I've met him, but we don't talk much. Oh! There he is! Hello!"

    Elise waves enthusiastically at Bob, who has entered with his plus-one!

    ...Faiza Hussain. Who is on his arm.

    "Hi Faiza!" Elise calls, beaming at her. "Are you two dating?"

    Faiza gasps and fumbles. "Um!"

    Bob laughs. "Ha ha, naw, naw, no do not tell Clay we are dating." He stops laughing halfway through his sentence.

    Miles grins. "It’s good to see you again, Faiza. And don’t worry, everything said here is strictly in confidence."

    Faiza smiles weakly and nervously.

    "Well, I think you two are cute together," Elise declares.

    Bob smiles. "Faiza more like came with me as a pity-date because I got turned down by Silver, so she felt bad."

    Faiza shakes her head. "That's not..."

    Bob shakes his head with a blank facial expression and then motions his head vaguely in the direction of where Clay is talking to Susan with his back to them.

    Julian shoots Bob the finger-guns. "Gotcha."

    Elise, feeling bad for the couple, changes the subject. "So! Crys! You, you uh, you like Jeremiah? Like, as a friend? Like, as a person?"

    Crys beams. "Oh! Yes, Jeremiah is very nice and polite, although he's a bit of a gossip. When I come up to visit the office he will always tell me what's going on and where your mission is and so on."

    Elise frowns. "He shouldn't do that!" Julian picks up a very strong thought from Elise. That bird-beaked son of a bitch.

    "I have clearance, it's okay," Crys assures her.

    Julian whispers to Faiza. "It's not an awful cover."

    She whispers back "He asked me first, Silver wasn't involved."

    "I figured."

    Elise hears a voice from behind her. "Hey Elise! High five!"

    Elise spins around to high five. It's Peter.

    "Hey, Peter!" Elise is genuinely glad he's here and not, like, smoking meth. But Crystalia, beside her, looks surprised to see Peter.

    "Hey, look, Peter, I'm...I'm really sorry about Vlad," Elise says. "Like. Everything about Vlad."

    Peter shrugs. "Hey, today's a happy day."

    "Yeah," Elise says.

    Elise didn't invite Peter, and she realizes that her wife didn’t either. She clears her throat. "So did Clay let you come? Or, like, Flashback?"

    Peter shuffles his feet. "Oh...uh...I'm Silver's plus-one."

    "Oh. Uh, aren't you still like, seventeen?"

    He looks back and forth nervously.

    Elise stands, scanning the crowd for Silver. She's still wearing a very polite smile.

    "Anyway nice to see you, congratulations on your day, best to both of you." Peter skitters off.

    Elise squints, looking for that white hair. "She thinks she can turn my wedding into a den of statutory rape -" She sees Silver at the bar getting two drinks. "I'll be right back!"

    Crys grabs her forearm. "Elise, delegate. You are a Princess now."

    "I'm a Princess," Elise squeals.

    Crystalia grins. "Get someone to fix the problem. Gorgon!" she hollers.

    "Okay, so do you guys have jail?" Elise says. "Put her in a cell to think about it for the night."

    Crystalia nods. Gorgon comes over. Elise claps. "I love having power!"

    Crystalia motions for Gorgon to lean over, and he does. She whispers to him, and he just nods. He smiles at Elise. "It will done, my Princess."

    Elise sips her champagne and looks smug. "So," she addresses STRIKE-1. "From now on, you may call me Princess Elise."

    "We may," Miles says, grinning widely at her.

    The orchestra starts playing “Part Of Your World” from The Little Mermaid and Crystalia grabs Elise's hand and squeals. "Elise! Dance with me!"

    "Yes!" Elise gets up. "Don't do anything I wouldn't do!" With that parting line to the table, she heads to the dance floor with Crys.

    As the two dance to the song, Elise feels something...strange. Like everything is...slowing down.

    The music.

    The dancing.

    Did she drink something strange? She looks around. Is anyone else reacting?

    Time itself stops. For everyone but Elise. Crystal is hanging in the air as Elise was spinning her.

    "Lovely party." Elise hears from behind her. She turns.


    "The ceremony was also lovely."

    "Vlad," Elise says, stunned. "You're - you're back?"

    "For this moment, yes. I did not wish to make a scene on your special day. I saw that you protected my world from Loki's machinations. This is good."

    "It's not your world, Vlad." The anger bubbles up in her. "You left me again, you, you -"

    "I am doing what must be done."

    "You didn't even ask me to come with you."

    He tilts his head. "I was not given that choice." He pauses. "...would you like to? I have the power to make that choice now."

    "Maybe I would have before. Now, how can I trust you?"

    He nods. "How, indeed. It is of no consequence. Trust, or do not. You will protect my world because it is your own. Chaos is coming. Chaos, and then destruction. You will be needed to stem the tide."

    With a crack, Elise slaps Vlad. He doesn't stop her. "Did you show up to my wedding—you were going to be my best man—to just, to just do this megalomaniac shit? Here? Now?"

    "No. I also brought a wedding gift."

    "...You could stay," she says. "That would be the best possible gift."

    He smiles and shakes his head. "No, that I cannot do. I am sorry."

    "Then what." Elise is flat, angry, hurt.

    "Perhaps you would accept this instead." He closes his hand, and then opens it.


    Elise's eyes widen. "Is that - the Cube?"

    "A Cube. Not the one from this reality, but another that I took as a trophy in our war."

    "Are we...still...friends?" she asks.

    "Do you wish to be?"

    Elise bites her lower lip and nods. "That was the plan, right? Forever?"

    He looks down at his bare wrist. "It may have been, at one time."

    "I kept them. The bracelets." She fishes in her tux pocket and produces them. "I didn't...I thought you'd..."

    He extends his wrist. And smiles. Elise wells up and puts on his bracelet, and then her own, and then throws herself at him for a hug. He hugs her back and looks over her shoulder at the frozen members of STRIKE-1 "They would not understand. You know this?"

    Elise remembers Miles and Clay talking on the Zephyr. "...I know."

    Vlad places her hand on the Cube. "Keep it secret. Keep it safe."

    "I will."

    He kisses her on the forehead, and then turns her towards Crystalia, who is still hanging in mid-air. "Catch her, Elise, or she will fall."

    Elise reaches out her arms to catch Crystalia. She doesn't look back at where Vlad was.

    He's gone.

    Time flows on. Crystalia spins in Elise's arms. Elise catches, twirls, and laughs with Crystalia. There are tears in her eyes.


    Jacobkosh on
    MatevRear Admiral ChocoHi I'm Vee!
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    MODOC even has a very small bow-tie.

    okay this cancels when everything was ruined forever by vlad's lack of high five

    JacobkoshRear Admiral Choco
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Oh yah, give Elise a Cosmic Cube this is fine and will have no repercussions at all when anyone comes looking for it.
    Bob asking Faiza out to the wedding is kinda sweet. Gonna miss him after Clay ice cream scoops him

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    JacobkoshRear Admiral Choco
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    It's been a week since Elise and Crystalia’s wedding. They've returned from their honeymoon, and now Clay has called the team in for a briefing. Clay is there with Victoria Hand and Vision.

    The team files in one by one. Elise enters, whistling “Part of Your World.” She looks relaxed, but when she looks at the front of the room, she immediately tenses. She is wearing the cheap purple bracelet again.

    Clay waves people to their seats. "Alright everyone, we've got some critical matters to discuss, so if we could take our seats that would be good. Vision, lock down the room."

    Vision nods, and the lights flicker. The doors click. Everyone’s phones lose signal; even Centurion's comm-gauntlet loses connection to Corona. Elise laughs, high and nervous. Miles tenses, going hyper-alert.

    "Director?" Ryann raises his eyebrow.

    "We're about to go to a very sensitive briefing about very important things, with a large and very diverse group of people, some of whom will surprise you that they are there. Some important matters will be discussed. I don't want to get sucker-punched by my own team with information I didn't know. So before we leave, if anyone has anything they'd like to share with the class, now is your opportunity."

    Elise, white in the face, raises her hand.


    "I just want to be clear I wasn't keeping this, like, a secret." She takes a deep breath. "I mean I was just, like, wrist deep in my wife for a week, so, like. I didn't have the opportunity -" She pauses, nervously surveying the room.

    Ryann's eyes widen. Miles' lip twitches into an involuntary downward curl. What's Elise about to say now? Julian chews his lip while he fidgets with his hair, anticipating the news.

    "Vlad showed up at my wedding," Elise squeaks.

    "What," Michael sighs.

    "...Seriously?" Julian asks.

    "Of course," Miles says. His voice is flat.

    Ryann says nothing. He just looks at Clay, listening.

    "He, um, he was kind of doing his Victorious thing? Like, oooh, doom is coming, and chaos, and you'll be needed to protect my world. He knew about Loki? He was all, like, props, for saving my world." Elise nervously shifts, playing with the child's bracelet on her wrist. "And I slapped him? I was really mad? And he, uh, he gave me...he..." Elise trails off, looking increasingly nervous and nauseous.

    "What did he give you, Elise?" Clay asks in measured tones..

    Elise reaches into the folds of her coat.


    "Is that the Cosmic Cube?!" Ryann says. I just got her a waffle iron.

    "It's...a Cosmic Cube?" she says. Julian just stares in amazement.

    Centurion is stunned. "Clay?"

    Clay is expressionless. He is intentionally expressionless. Elise can tell he's holding his face in place. "I see."

    Miles just shakes his head. "He got in and out of a wedding full of Inhumans and superheroes without anyone knowing, and he's got spare Cosmic Cubes to pass around. We got pantsed. Again. This has to stop."

    "You're not allowed to be mad at me," Elise says. "I didn't keep it a secret!"

    "Elise, I am not mad at you," Clay says in a calm, slow voice. "You didn't keep it a secret. I'm proud of you for being honest. Have you...used it?"

    "Um," she says. "I don't really know, like, how?"


    "I mean, Crystalia said we should take it to Attilan, but I thought maybe that was a bad idea. And I mean, I've mostly been face deep in -"

    Clay nods. "I agree with you, I think that would be a bad idea. Elise, would you be comfortable with me holding on to the cube?"

    Elise shifts uncomfortably. "I mean, I, I kind of like it."

    "Please, Elise," Ryann says, staring at the Cube. He slowly begins to rise from his seat. This is a toddler-with-a-gun situation.

    "And I mean, if I go and talk to Doctor Doom, wouldn't it be good to have an ace up my sleeve?" she says, still looking at Clay.

    "Sure, but I would just be holding on to it," he says. "What if he tries to take it from you?"

    "Can I have it back if I ask for it really nicely?"

    "Yes." Clay motions for Centurion to sit. Elise glances at Centurion and inches her chair back.

    Centurion stops. "Please let Clay hold on to the Cube, Elise."

    Clay nods. "Elise, can I hold on to it until at least we are done this meeting we are going to, and then we can talk about what to do next with it?"

    "Okay, but it's my Cube." Elise puts the Cube on the table and slides it towards Clay. Centurion leans back in his chair.

    "Of course." Clay picks it up and looks at it. His jaw tightens and he gulps hard. Victoria puts her hand on his elbow. He shakes his head and pockets it.

    Elise watches this in confusion. "Everyone's kind of acting really weird right now."

    Clay lets out a sharp exhale. "Does anyone else have anything to say or objects of unimaginable cosmic power to show the class?"

    Elise points at Julian. "He's been going full Poltergeist!" Clay narrows his eyes at Julian, and Centurion furrows his brow.

    "Excuse me?" Julian says.

    Elise makes “pwoosh” noises and flaps her arms, and then caws. "That's you."

    Clay looks at Julian. "Has this happened since Battleworld?"

    "It has!" she says.

    "Mmmmm...maybe once or twice," Julian acknowledges.

    Clay grumbles. "Keep that buttoned at the meeting. We'll talk about that later, you and I." Elise looks smug.

    Julian nods. "Aye-aye."

    "I'd like to be involved in that conversation, Clay," Ryann says.

    Clay shrugs. "Sure." He turns to the others. "Anyone else?"

    Elise points at Ryann. "Centurion misses his kid!"

    Centurion's head snaps to face her. "When did I..." He looks at Clay and mouths What the fuck.

    Clay shakes his head. "Elise, nobody likes a narc."

    "Yeah, Elise," Julian says.


    Elise slumps in her chair and grouses. "I want my Cube back."

    "Any other real issues?" Clay says.

    Miles doesn’t say anything; he quietly chews his lip as he stares into the middle distance, balling and unballing his fists.

    "We're good, everyone?"

    "Yeah, I think so,” Julian says.

    Clay looks at Vision. "Alright, call Strange." Vision nods.

    A minute later, an orange circular portal opens, and Doctor Strange appears. He looks at the team. "Everyone's all here, let's go." He opens a new portal, and steps through that. Clay motions for everyone to follow.

    Elise shuffles through nervously and Julian calmly follows. Michael secures his new swords on his back and steps through. Shaking his head to clear it, Miles follows.

    Ryann stands. A flash of light covers his body and his Nova Corps uniform takes the place of his clothes. He steps through the portal. Clay, Victoria, and Vision bring up the rear, and the portal closes behind them.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    They reappear in Atlantis, standing in a large conference room or council chamber.


    There are...many others there. It's quite a group. Other heroes, Inhumans, even a couple of villains. At the head of the room stands Prince Namor.


    Julian scans over the crowd. "Wow."

    Elise waves enthusiastically at the Fantastic Four, and Susan nods back to her. "Can I sit with Crys?" she whispers to Clay.

    "No, you're with us for this thing," he whispers back.

    As people sit down, Namor does introductions. "I am Namor, King of Atlantis, as most of you know.

    “Doctors Reed and Susan Richards, and their associates Ben Grimm and John Storm.


    “Professor Charles Xavier, and his associates Scott Summers, Logan, Dr. Henry McCoy, Ororo Munroe, and Jean Grey.


    “King Agar of Attilan, Queen Medusalith, Princess Crystalia, and her bodyguard Gorgon Petragon. Alaris, leader of the Ennilux. Trikon, leader of the Alphans of Attilan.


    "King T'Challa of Wakanda.


    "Doctor Stephen Strange and his Apprentice, Kaecilius.


    "Doctor Victor Von Doom, ruler of Latveria. Doctor Franklin Hall, Doom's Apprentice."


    Michael hears that and thinks Oh fucking hell.a

    "And Clay Quartermain, Director of STRIKE, with his lead field team of Miles Mason, Julian Adler, Michael Westin, Elise Arnell and his associates Victoria Hand and the Vision.


    "Quartermain is also accompanied by a member of the Nova Corps." Namor seems to append that last detail at the last minute as if he was unaware of this fact.


    "Centurion," Ryann nods. He stands with his fists resting on his hips. Namor nods.

    Elise waves. Miles nods at the assemblage over folded arms. Julian makes a slight bow towards the rest of the assembly.

    "I should have posed or bowed, God damnit," Elise hisses.

    "There's a few matters to discuss at this conference, and given this is my kingdom, I'm going to be leading this assembly in the topics at hand,” Namor says.

    "The first of which is we have learned that Nick Fury made a decision many years ago to sacrifice one of his eyes to a location known as Mimir's Well in Asgard, to give him some precognitive abilities. The cost of this ability is such that it has caused some mental degeneration, which Quartermain has confirmed is taking place.

    "Fury is incredibly powerful and influential, and if he is becoming delusional or senile that cannot be permitted to simply happen without any interruption. My opinion is Fury should be confronted with this fact by those he trusts, such as Hand and Quartermain, so that he can seek treatment and potentially stop using this ability and halt further damage. I knew Fury's father, and Fury is a good man who needs our help.”

    Charles Xavier speaks up. "I could simply restore Fury's mind. I've manipulated his mind before for the safety of mutantkind and I could attempt to help him with this too."

    Black Panther shakes his head. "No, that is immoral. We need to tell him the truth." King Agar nods at Black Panther in approval.

    Julian sends a psychic message to Clay. Goddamn. Everyone all an open book about the weird shit they've been up to.

    Get used to it,
    Clay thinks. This is just topic one.

    "Mr. Fury's always been really nice to me." Elise says, sadly. "I mean, we gotta fix him first, right? He comes above, like, some abstract concept of the safety of the world or whatever."

    "I mean, I agree,” Julian says, “but ah…abstract concept of the safety of the world...?"

    "Well, that's the thing, right?” Elise says. “He just did the eye thing so he could always see ahead. But Loki could have fucked that over for him! If it weren't for X-51, he'd be seeing the wrong shit and we wouldn't even know!"

    Doom nods at Elise. "I agree with Professor Xavier. If he has a solution to the problem then let him solve it. Fury isn't one to simply cede power or acknowledge his faults, but if the issue can be quietly resolved then simply resolve it."

    Centurion gives Doom a long look. Elise, as always, feels uncomfortable that her ideas are generally Okay With Doom.

    "Elise, please don't tell the supervillains about X-51," Miles murmurs quietly.

    "Sorry!" Elise whispers.

    Reed coughs uncomfortably. "Could Fury be declared medically unfit? Is that something SHIELD has protocols for, Quartermain? Could Fury be removed and Hand or Hill take over instead? Even if Xavier successfully restores his mind, Ms. Arnell makes the valid point that the whole circumstance with his eye in the well is still a vulnerability and an issue."

    "That's a dick move." Elise sets her jaw.

    Medusalith sneers. "That's a coup."

    Reed shakes his head. "That's pragmatism."

    "How would you feel, Mr. Richards, if someone came up to you and was just like, thanks for everything you've done for WHISPER, but we've decided behind your back you're out." Elise begins to list points off on her fingers. "First of all, that's fucking awful, like, just to do to someone. Two, hey, did you know that Nick Fury has about a 0% chance of taking that sitting down? Think about it. I guarantee he'd start his own SHIELD with blackjack and hookers the second he was left alone for a second."

    Doom points at Elise. "That second point is extremely salient, Reed. You push Fury to the shadows and that's the most dangerous place for him." Elise beams at the praise before realizing who it's from.

    Centurion speaks up. "Fury is Earth representative to the Nova Corps. We can't ‘remove’ him," he says flatly.

    Doom tilts his head. "What does this mean, Earth's representative?"

    Elise kicks Centurion. "Ixnay," she begins hissing.

    Centurion sighs and looks at Doom. "Earth has joined the collective of worlds under the protection of the Nova Corps." He turns to face to everyone assembled. "I am the Nova tasked with this assignment." He folds his arms.

    Doom looks at Clay. "Under whose authority? Fury's? Did he speak for Earth as if he was our ruler? Unelected, unchosen, unsent, with no consultation he ceded authority over m-...our world to an extraterrestrial power and told no one?!

    "You have three sovereign heads of state in this room and none of us were aware?"

    Namor shrugs. "I knew."

    Doom growls "Why did you know?!"

    Namor replies flatly. "Quartermain told me."

    Elise looks at her desk and slides underneath it, as if testing whether she can hide from Doom. Hey. Hey, Julian, she broadcasts. Julian. Hey.


    Can you see me. I'm hiding.

    Jullian shrugs. Yeah, I can see you. Nice try, though.

    Centurion holds up a quelling hand at Doom. "That's not my job or concern...Victor, right? It's Victor?”

    Doom slowly turns to look at Centurion.

    FUCK! Elise thinks.

    He begins to stand and Namor says "Doom. Sit." Doom sits.

    "This is a peaceful conference under my auspice and will remain so," Namor says to the room.

    Elise pops back up, looking ruffled. "There's something else! About ownership of the world! The Parliament! Vlad! My wedding!"

    Clay grabs Elise by the shoulder. Elise yelps.


    Elise shushes.

    Namor clears his throat. "We are going to get to the Council and the Parliament later, Ms. Arnell. Quartermain, you're the only representative of SHIELD at this conference. How do you want to proceed on the Fury issue?"

    Clay sucks his teeth. "I agree with my team. We shouldn't depose Fury, or go behind his back. We should confront Fury with the truth, and give him the option of treatment by Xavier or stepping down by choice.

    "I have...experience with telepaths. Some of my team are telepaths and they work in my agency. You go fucking around in people's heads without their knowledge or consent, there can be repercussions. It's never perfect or clean."

    Namor nods. "That settled, then?" Everyone seems to more or less agree. "Good, then...the next topic is a bit more...controversial."

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Namor begins. "On August 6th, there was an explosion in downtown Los Angeles."

    "Oh no," Elise murmurs. Centurion's jaw tightens.

    "1,650 dead, 2,190 injured," Namor says. "We know why this happened. It was a deliberate effort on the part of the Office of National Emergency, who inserted a covert operative onto the corporate-run team known as Action Pack.

    "This operative, code-named Patriot, was a remote-operated drone derived from the US government's Sentinel program, itself based on Stark Industries technology. The drone detonated when it encountered Quartermain's STRIKE team, who were trying to apprehend an alien fugitive.

    "Patriot, who was under direct control of the US government's 'Master Mold' AI code-named 'Arsenal,' recognized one of STRIKE's operatives and detonated to try to both kill STRIKE's agents and blame STRIKE and Action Pack for the 08/06 incident."

    "Arsenal shot without asking questions," Elise says. "He saw me, he recognized me, he shot me in the face. Like, yeah, the explosion is one thing, but he's not all about theatrics, you know?"

    Namor continues. "The US government has used 8/6 as justification to move forward on the Super-Human Registration Act, which in its current form will require the registration of every mutant, Inhuman, or anyone else with super-human abilities by any origin or means. Banner, for example, would be a man who would have to register.

    "Registration, so it seems, involves telling ONE who you are, what you can do, and consenting to have them track your movements."

    Xavier looks visibly irritated.

    Fuck that noise. Michael thinks. Centurion shakes his head slowly.

    Elise stands. "They didn't give a shit about me when I was living in a van and crying every time I had to take a poo, and now they're saying they gotta register everyone to stay safe? No. Absolutely not. We're stopping this."

    Namor holds up a hand. "We've also discovered that Tony Stark is supporting the SHRA, and has decided to start helping ONE."

    Elise stares. "...What?!"

    "Stark has decided that SHIELD is out of control, that Fury has unchecked power and authority to run black operations with no oversight, and buys into ONE's story about who is responsible for 8/6. He doesn't believe Fury any more and considers the man a dangerous liar."

    "But I like Tony," Elise says.

    Namor shrugs. "Arsenal was built by Stark's father, as it turns out, and the Sentinels are built by his technology."

    "But this harness! He built me something so I wouldn't get creamed! He's inadvertently saved my life like, six times!” Elise’s eyes widen as she remembers the phone she left in Malibu. "Oh, shit! Does he know about the - is this my fault?!"

    Clay puts his hand on Elise's shoulder and whispers "Don't worry about it."

    "That's not an answer!" she hisses back.

    Namor looks at everyone assembled. "We need to decide what to do about this. About the SHRA, about ONE, about Stark. If the SHRA goes through in the US, other countries will look to them as an example. China is already oppressing and brutalizing Inhumans.

    "The SHRA is founded on false pretenses. It cannot be allowed to pass. Stark has betrayed SHIELD and his allies, and has to be brought down. ONE is a group of deceivers and liars and monsters who kept one of my best friends, Jim Hammond, as a test subject. Destroy them all."

    Elise pulls on Clay's sleeve, irritated, keeping her voice low. "Does Stark know we got into his computer?"

    Clay shakes his head. "No, don't worry about it, Elise. Namor knows this stuff because I told him."

    "So did I help by doing any of that?" she asks.

    "Yes," he says.

    Xavier speaks up. "We should expose ONE, let the American people decide the truth. Tony Stark can be...convinced he's wrong and be brought back on the right side of history. If people are given the truth about ONE and the Sentinels and 8/6 they can't possibly support the SHRA."

    "We'll The Parent Trap him!" Elise says.

    Reed looks at Elise. "The...original or the remake? I don't understand..."

    "The point is we can work together to get him on our side again even though he's working with the wrong set of info," she says. "To Parent Trap someone is to get them into the position you want through non-lethal or even violent means, just social engineering." She taps her temple.

    Doom nods with approval. Oh no, she thinks.

    "I think this is a good plan." Doom adds. "Ms. Arnell knows Stark and even if he disapproves of SHIELD in the larger sense, she may be able to sway him without using...unpleasant means. However, there is one piece of intelligence I have to add," Doom says. "Something you all may not be aware of.

    "A few weeks ago, there was a terrorist attack on US soil. A sinister half-dozen miscreants attempted to besiege the Cheyenne Mountain base in Colorado. They were defeated by some of the individuals in this very room, so I have been informed.

    "The purpose of this attack is rather nebulous, and certainly seemed ill-advised given the outcome, but it did lead to a fortuitous bit of intelligence in the sense that the individuals who attempted the attack were apprehended by ONE.

    "And, accordingly, I was able to discover what happens to such individuals when such a thing takes place. Fascinating information, really. There is a facility, code-named the Big House, which seems like a quaint term until it turns out to be an ironic appellation."

    Hey, Julian, you should tell Doom he's not getting paid by the word here. Elise thinks. Everyone will laugh. Do it.

    How about I bring Clay into this convo about risking unleashing the Phoenix?

    Elise jumps in place, and a nervous jolt goes through the psychic connection. No one likes a narc, Julian.

    Agreed. Julian thumbs his nose at Elise.

    "The facility has been shrunk, using Pym Particles to occupy interstitial space,” Doom says. "This technology is not one the US government or even SHIELD was ever able to master. I believe that Dr. Henry Pym is in ONE's direct employ."

    "Wait, I know a Pym,” Elise says. “Ant-Man!"

    Doom nods. "The same. I lost contact with the individuals when they entered the Big House. It's the perfect black site. It's off the grid because it is literally off the grid. it's not a place you could physically find because it's micrometers in size."

    Elise nudges Behemoth. "Hey, Michael. You should tell Doom he's not getting paid by the word. It'll be really funny, and everyone will laugh."

    Doom turns and looks at Elise. She sits bolt upright and gives Doom a sickly smile.

    "...Might I continue?" he says.

    "Yes, sir. Doctor, sir."

    Doom nods. "Thank you.

    "I suggest that the Big House be infiltrated, and evidence gathered and prisoners rescued for their testimonials to the undoubtedly unethical activities taking place there."

    "...I might be able to find it," Elise says. "Like, I can't enter it, but we have someone who can. But, I mean, something that size doesn't..."

    Doom looks at Elise. "The easiest way to infiltrate it would be to...get caught. Get thrown in with the methodology and power to break out. The original six individuals who went in did not have the power or capability to do so. They were sent in to simply obtain information and ultimately to solve a larger problem of what to be done with them.

    "But more potent and efficient agents could get the job done."

    Xavier looks at Doom. "That's monstrous."

    Doom chuckles. "That's efficient."

    Elise squints at Doom. "You said you didn't know anything about why the Sinister Six were there. You said they were acting entirely on their own."

    "I genuinely didn't know why they attacked the Cheyenne Mountain facility," he says. "I gave no such instruction. To attack that facility. Specifically."

    Reed visibly rolls his eyes. "Victor, you're unbelievable."

    Doom shakes his head. "I disagree. I am entirely believable."

    "Anyway,” Elise says, “if we send anyone—which I don't even know that we should—I volunteer Centurion and Behemoth."

    Clay nods. "I think we should send all of STRIKE-1, actually. They're already on ONE's shit-list."

    "Nooooo," Elise says in a smaller voice.

    "And they're the best equipped to break out," Clay adds.

    "Not meeeee," she says.

    Namor nods. "That will let us defang the SHRA hopefully, but what about Stark in a larger sense? Or Arsenal?"

    King Agar makes some sign language, and Medusalith translates. "Can we just kill Stark? Is that not on the table? He betrayed his brothers and his people. He is a traitor." Elise and Crystalia share a horrified look.

    Miles clears his throat. The room turns to look at him.

    "Tony Stark is a sideshow," he says. "If ONE is dealt with, the Stark problem will take care of itself. The real threat is the bureaucratic apparatus behind ONE. You can't just punch it out. You can't mind-control a whole building full of people. We have to expose it. Suborn it. And neutralize its biggest weapon, which is Arsenal - an AI that's almost as malevolent as anything I've ever met.

    "Let's focus on those and not get distracted by trivia." He steps back.

    Clay nods. "He's right. We take out Arsenal, they lose the Sentinels. We expose ONE, we neuter the SHRA. Fixate too much on Stark and it's like trying to mate a rook. That's not how you win.”

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    T'Challa stands up. "I need to say this, because no one else is. I understand that ONE is corrupt. But Tony Stark is a good man. And Nick Fury is not, you all must see this."

    Elise stands. "Excuse me?"

    "He spoke for our world, signed away some of our sovereignty to an alien power without our consent or knowledge or consultation. I am king of Wakanda, and Nick Fury did not speak to me before or after we became Protectorate of an alien empire. Wakanda has never been a colonial state of a foreign nation and now, suddenly, all of Earth is. Because one man decided this for his entire world. Without oversight."

    Doom nods at T'Challa in approval.

    Elise shakes her head. "I was in a back room in Vegas, my knees about to be broken, when SHIELD found me. They do good work for people. Sometimes they go too far, sure, but Hand saved my life, and Fury, y'know, helped her. He cares."

    "I understand that Fury can be high-handed," Miles says, "but nothing he does is for self-aggrandizement. It's all for our sakes - all of us, even the ones he doesn't like. And he doesn't look for the spotlight. He doesn't throw himself a parade."

    Centurion squints his eyes. "Fury agreed to Earth's protectorate status because the Nova Corps asked him. SHIELD has the only space station and known interstellar relations with the cosmos. Fury agreed and we were under the understanding that SHIELD was led by a council of Earth nations.

    "His condition does complicate the situation but it doesn't change it. The Nova Corps...I am here to protect Earth, protect its people. We can discuss Earth's status later, if you want, but for now...I agree with King T'Challa. I know of Iron Man and the things he has done. Killing is off the table."

    T'Challa looks at Centurion. "Fury tells us nothing. I want more information on this Nova Corps, what was agreed to, I want..."

    Namor interrupts him. "Later, your majesty."

    T'Challa nods. "Furthermore...ONE is corrupt, yes, but I have to be the one to say this, this registration idea entirely wrong? In my country, such a thing already exists. It is for the public good."

    Xavier narrows his eyes.

    T’Challa continues. "Wakanda was not affected by the Terrigen bomb, no, but if we were, we would treat our Inhumans with compassion and understanding. Help them, provide social services for them. We could not do that if they lived in the shadows and hid who they are."

    Xavier frowns. "And what do you currently do with your mutant population, your majesty?"

    T'Challa looks at him, confused. "What mutant population?"

    Xavier tightens his jaw. "...I see."

    T'Challa shakes his head. "No, no, I do not understand the question. There are not 'mutants' in Wakanda. If there were, they would be registered. The Hatut Zeraze would know of such things."

    Xavier nods. "Oh, I'm sure."

    T'Challa grimaces. "Do not patronize a king."

    "Look," Elise butts in. "If the registration thing is perfect in another set of circumstances, that's great, but the one we're facing now is poison. We can have a huge debate on the ethics once ONE is in the ground, right?"

    Doom nods. "Ms. Arnell is right, it's fruit of the poison tree."

    Centurion clears his throat. "On Xander we have a registry system. It helps people. I'm not sure if Earth is at that point, though. So much has happened here in the last 15 years, so fast."

    Namor speaks up. "We can all agree ONE is corrupt and needs to be brought down. Arsenal needs to be stopped. ONE needs to be exposed. The SHRA in its current form is from a toxic foundation."

    "Hey, question," Elise says. "Is Attilan part of Earth, technically?"

    King Agar shakes his head.

    "Like, ONE couldn't do anything vis-a-vis the Inhumans there, yeah? The Sentinels and all that, right, they're stuck on Earth?"

    Queen Medusalith nods.

    Clay adds "I think we can send someone to destroy Arsenal. My team could do it, or Xavier's people. Find where they are making Sentinels and destroy the Master Mold."

    "It should be us," Elise says.

    Hand interjects. "We could send the team to infiltrate this 'Big House,' see if we can get intel on Arsenal from that, and try to neutralize him from there." Clay nods at this.

    "LIke the Magic School Bus?" Elise asks. Clay nods at her.

    Namor looks at everyone. "Good then, there's one final matter to address.

    "The Cold War."

    "Isn't that...over?" Elise asks. Clay sighs.

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  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Namor begins. "The Parliament and the Council are two multiversal powers that are at war across multiple dimensions.

    "We've learned that the Parliament are largely composed of alternate universe versions of Victor Von Doom, and the Council, their opponents, are a group of alternate universe versions of Reed Richards."

    Doom shifts in his chair, then looks at the room. "The Parliament offered me membership in their organization a year ago. I...declined. Susan has since informed me that they subsequently offered the membership to my son, Vladimir, who accepted. Foolish child."

    "He came back!" Elise sits up. "For a moment. I don't think he's, like, he was talking to me like he was Vlad again, so I think, maybe -"

    Doom looks at Elise. "He came back to gloat, no doubt. And to offer you a place at his side."

    "No, actually!" She pauses. "Well, there was some gloating."

    Doom tilts his head, curious.

    Clay? Elise thinks in his general direction. Is this how I start a conversation with you? What can I say, here?

    She feels Clay's presence in her mind. Do not mention your wedding present. That's yours. It's for you. You can talk about everything else.

    "Okay, so, I was dancing with Crys, and time just...stopped. Except for me. I turned, and he was there. Vlad, in a suit, looking like...y'know, the old days. Before the whole Victorious thing."

    Strange speaks up for the first time. "...finally mastered Time. Huh."

    Elise glances at Strange and nods. She's obviously speaking carefully, trying not to rush ahead of herself or leave anything out. "So, he says he knows that we stopped Loki. We protected his world. He's glad. I tell him bullshit, it's not his world. I hit him, too."

    Doom scoffs at his world. "Good."

    Elise makes a slight face of discomfort. "Anyways, he says that there's more coming, destruction and chaos. We gotta stem the tide. I guess we being STRIKE.

    "I said he shouldn't show up and say this shit, he was supposed to be my best man. I guess he watched the entire thing, though. He said he didn't want to ruin the day. He said I could come with him, if I wanted.” Elise looks at Crys, then at STRIKE-1 and Clay. "I...couldn't. I didn't…want to."

    Crys smiles at Elise. She's tearing up.

    "But he said we're friends again." She holds up her wrist and jangles the bracelet. Centurion shoots Clay a worried look. Clay nods at Centurion.

    "He said...uh, he said STRIKE-1 wouldn't understand. He said he couldn't come back. But I had to keep secrets for him, like, in general, y'know? His world, and, like, I guess he sees me and STRIKE as being crucial to that. I guess working for him, kind of? Which is bullshit, but, y'know, he...he's my best friend, too, so..."

    Miles puts his face in his hand. Namor grumbles. "Wondrous."


    Miles ignores her and turns to Strange. "Doctor Strange," Miles says. His voice is at the edge of patience. "If you know some way to prevent. Or even detect. This kind of thing she's describing. The time-freezing. I think we'd all sleep more soundly."

    Strange nods. "I can try to create a ward of some kind."

    "...No?" Elise says. "No, I want to be able to talk to Vlad. If he has to freeze time so it's not a whole thing, that's fine."

    Clay interrupts. "We'll talk about this later, folks."

    Reed furrows his brow. "Victor, you say the Parliament offered you a position? The Council...never offered me a place in their group. They tried to take my son, so they clearly passed me over, but I was never offered a spot."

    Miles speaks to X-51 in his mind. X-51, I'd like you to coordinate with Vision about ways to defang Arsenal. And appropriate its resources.

    X-51 responds. Very good sir, coordinating now.

    Miles remembers that Arsenal was also able to resist Vlad’s advances. Maybe it knows something that could help him.

    Doom nods. "Yes, it was a bit over a year ago, when I was experimenting with the Reality Arcana. Two of their...Archons, I believe they are called? They appeared to me and offered me a place in the Parliament. I declined, because among the Parliament they had a leader called Rabum Alal, the 'Doom Above All.' Such nonsense.

    "There is only one Doom above all. I am that Doom. I will not answer to some alternate-dimension charlatan."

    "It's kind of funny," Elise muses. "They're going around telling other Dooms, and Vlad, and stuff, that you're not worthy and you never got an invite."

    Doom stands up. "They what?!" His fists tighten.

    Elise scoots her chair back several paces. "We all agreed that was obviously horseshit." She nervously laughs.

    Clay nods. "It's true, Doom, I was there. That's literally what they said. They deemed you unworthy and passed you over for your son. That was what they said."

    Doom spins and stares at Richards. "This is war, you understand this? They took my son, Richards, fed his ego like a foie gras goose, and tried to take your son. No doubt because this so-called 'Council' flitters about the multiverse scandalizing about your fitness."

    Reed shrugs. "Possibly? But I was never even offered. The Council only ever spoke to me once, on my wedding day with Susan. They asked...invasive questions about us."

    "So we're getting Vlad back, right?" Elise butts in, clearly directed towards Doom.

    Doom tilts his head quizzically. "What questions?"

    Reed shifts. "...invasive ones." Susan looks uncomfortable.

    Elise leans towards Michael and whispers "Do you think they asked how big Reed's dick is?"

    “Yeah, and our Reed probably has the smallest in the Multiverse," Michael chuckles back.

    Vision leans in and earnestly asks Elise in a whisper "Why would they not already know? They are a Council of Reeds."

    "Oh my Go-"

    Doom continues to ask. "I don't understand, Reed. What was the Council asking about, if not inquiring about you to join them, that was so invasive?"

    Elise stands up. "Doctor Doom, sir, excuse me. Are. We. Getting. Vlad. Back?"

    Miles stares at her. "What makes you think that's up to us, Elise?"

    "I wasn't asking you," she says. "I was asking Vlad's father."

    "I don't care," Miles snaps. "Vlad's where he wants to be. You need to deal with that. You've had long enough."

    Centurion and Clay trade worried looks again.

    Doom turns around to look at Elise. "That will depend, Ms. Arnell. I do not know how willing he was in going along with the Parliament. He is a free-willed being." He nods at Miles. "If this is a choice he truly made, of sound mind and body, then...I don't know that there is truly a him to get back. Your friend, my son, may be gone."

    "But he came back! To the wedding! It was him!"

    "Perhaps,” Doom says, “perhaps not. Perhaps a clever face worn by a deceptive being who knew the words to say to make you twist."

    Elise sits, shattered. "...I mean, I… He said no one would understand, I had to keep it all secret, but...that's, I guess...I guess that's what you would say."

    "Abusers say that, Elise," Miles spits.

    Victoria sits next to Elise and puts her arm around her. Elise, for the first time all meeting, is silent, leaning into Victoria and saying nothing.

    Reed clears his throat. "I agree with you, Victor. This is war. They took your son. They tried to take mine. Their reasons don't matter. I've had to move Franklin to a secure location to keep him safe and it's awful."

    Doom nods, and extends a hand to Reed. Reed nods and shakes his hand.

    X-51 chimes in Miles' head. Sir, this decision will have far-reaching implications. Calculations are pending. Please stand by.

    Miles tenses a little with anticipation of what is to come.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Namor clasps his hands together. "I...believe that was everything? Is there anything anyone else would like to bring up?"

    Miles stands. "There's one last thing," he says. "The biggest thing.

    "Gah Lak Tus."

    Centurion nods at this. Elise leans further into Victoria. "Thank you," Strange sighs.

    "The Destroyer is headed this way. We don't know how long we have. No planet in the galaxy—maybe the universe?—has managed to stop it. Everything we do, every choice we make, needs to be made with one eye on that end. Nothing else we're talking about today—even the Council and the Parliament—ultimately matters if our planet is devoured."

    Miles taps the table before him with one finger. "We need to continue moving past our differences so we can improvise. Adapt. And overcome."

    Doom looks at Miles. "I pledge to devote as many resources as I have to finding a solution to this issue. Reed and I will work together, as much against the Council and the Parliament and this Devourer. This is our world and we will not allow some interloper to destroy it, no matter what form such creatures take."

    Elise sits up. "I've seen him."

    "As have I," Michael says.

    Centurion looks at the both of them and shakes his head. "How? The Devourer of Worlds is a cosmic force of nature. Unstoppable."

    "Oh, I went for a walk." Elise explains breezily. "But I kind of launched myself a little too far so I saw Galactus. Kind of like when I saw Shuma-Gorath. The second time. Not the first, that was Lawson's fault."

    "I had to resist him taking my soul,” Michael says. “And as I was returning to my body I flipped him off. Probably not the smartest move."

    Centurion makes an unhappy grunt.

    Julian clears his throat. "Certain authorities have described the entity that now part of...? as a sort of sign of Gah Lak Tus's coming."

    Jean Grey speaks up, looking at Julian. "You're the Phoenix Force."

    Julian nods.

    Jean looks at Xavier. "See! It's real! It's always been real!"

    Xavier nods at Jean. "Jean, I've never said the Phoenix wasn't real, I said that you insisting it was calling to you was dangerous."

    "What do you mean?” Julian asks. “What have you seen of it?"

    Jean looks at Julian. "Since my powers first manifested, I've been having these visions. An alien world dying in fire. A phoenix. A world devoured. Then when I started using Cerebro, it got more intense, until about a year ago and it just...stopped."

    Julian shivers a bit. "I wonder what it means. How long have you had your powers?"

    "Since I was a teenager," she says.

    Julian looks thoughtful. "I can't...I don't understand how this could have happened."

    Reed turns to face the room. "Going forward, I think what we should do is use WHISPER's resources and communication methods to coordinate our efforts. Keep away from SHIELD or ONE or anywhere the Council or the Parliament or HYDRA or any other malefactors could pry."

    Jean telepathically transmits to Julian I want to talk to you later, when all of this is over.

    I would like that, myself. he thinks. This...I can't even begin to think of the questions.

    Oh! You're a telepath too! Were you before the Phoenix...?

    he thinks. It's been...a very new thing to come to grips with.

    Huh! Maybe I could teach you stuff,
    she replies.

    Maybe! I would like that, he thinks.

    Me too. The only other telepath I know is the Professor and he's way more powerful than me so and he's older and...anyway! We should pay attention. She turns to face the speakers.

    "This sucks," Elise announces to the back of the chair in front of her.

    T'Challa frowns at Reed's suggestion. "So we are to replace one unaccountable non-government agency that operates in the shadows with another non-government agency that operates in the shadows, only this one the public does not even know exists?" He folds his arms, unimpressed.

    Reed rolls his eyes. "Your majesty, please. We need a way to coordinate these matters."

    T'Challa puts up his hand. "I have heard enough. This wafts of conspiracy. You men and women meet in secret, these people," he gestures to STRIKE, "speak behind the back of their own superior, who himself is a would-be tyrant that cuts deals with aliens as if he is a spokesman for all of Earth. I tire of this. I will return to Wakanda now, and have no further part in this burgeoning secret society you build for yourselves. I will not move against you, or reveal your secrets, for I am a man of honor unlike some." He shoots Doom a look; Doom scoffs and waves his hand dismissively.

    Strange sighs and says "If that is how you feel, your majesty."

    "Your Majesty, sir, I just, clearly we help," Elise butts in. "When we came to Wakanda, we were helpful, right? Like, we weren't dicks or nothin'."

    T'Challa looks at Elise. "Help is what you did for my father, for the people of Wakanda. Help is what the Avengers do. This...this is conspiracy. This is what Westerners allege is an Illuminati. I want no part of this."

    Centurion rubs the back of his neck, clearly torn by the argument.

    Miles looks at his team, then at King T’Challa. "You're being unfair, T'Challa. I didn't ask for this. None of us did. But we're trying to do right with the cards we've been dealt. You can do what you want, but when Galactus comes calling, I want to know that we can count on you to stand with Earth. Your honor can do no less."

    T'Challa looks at Miles. "I will defend Wakanda, and I will defend this world. I will not skulk in the shadows and cut backroom deals with tyrants."

    Miles' sunglasses snap into place over his eyes.

    ”I didn’t ask for this” and the deployable sunglasses are little touches from Deus Ex, a video game series that also features bionic men participating in secret councils to decide the fate of the world.

    Strange opens a portal, and T'Challa looks at the rest of those assembled. "You speak of pragmatism and sacrifice. Do not sacrifice your souls just in the name of some crusade. The ends do not justify the means." He steps through the portal, and it closes behind him.

    Elise presses the heels of her hands into her eyes. "I want to go home." she mutters. "I wish I was still on honeymoon."

    " too," Centurion whispers to Elise under his breath.

    Clay announces to the rest of the assembly "I think we're done here anyway. My team has its missions. I agree with Richards that going forward, we'll lean heavily on WHISPER. I'll coordinate with Susan on that."

    "Wait," Elise says. "Um, Doctor Doom, sir, can we schedule an appointment to talk later?" Doom nods. "Cool, uh, you can just...pencil that in."

    "Have him contact me." Doom gestures to Vision.

    "Um, yes. Sir? Doctor Doom, sir. I don't know how I'm supposed to talk to you. I can't stop saying words." Doom puts up a hand.

    Clay looks at Strange. "Stephen, can you portal us to the Helicarrier? My team needs to have words with Fury."

    Strange raises an eyebrow. ""

    Clay shrugs. "No time like the present. They were the field team that went on the mission, and I'd appreciate the back-up if the conversation doesn't go my way." Centurion nods at Clay.

    Elise raises a hand. "Permission to skip out and think really important thoughts, sir?"



    "It'll be fine, Elise," Clay says.

    Strange whistles low. "Alright, well, here we go then. Good luck." His hands whirl in the air, and he opens a portal. "Best of luck to you.

    "'ll need it."

    "Why would you say that?!" Elise stares at him. "That's just going to terrify us! There's no actual real reason to say that!"

    Clay leads the team through the portal.

    So much going on here! I love these big comparing-notes and plotting-the-future sessions.

    Before storming off, T’Challa calls the group an Illuminati. Obviously the comparison is invited because these powerful people are meeting in secret to decide the fate of the planet, but it’s also a reference to an actual thing in Marvel’s 616 continuity: a limited series from about ten years ago which depicted some of the most powerful and influential figures in the Marvel universe—Namor, Professor X, Tony Stark, Reed Richards, Doctor Strange and others—meeting to consult with one another about mutual problems and lay morally ambiguous plans for the future, such as exiling the Hulk to space (in their defense, the plan was to send Hulk to a paradise planet where he could run free without hurting anybody), which led to the much-loved Planet Hulk comic when Hulk ended up on a tyrannical gladiator world instead.

    Aside from getting big lore dumps, which I of course love, I like how scenes like this give us insight into the different perspectives and conflicting ethical views of the participants.

    Xavier is horrified at Doom’s manipulation of the Sinister Six and at the loss of life they inflicted at Cheyenne Mountain (Scorpion ate people!). On the other hand, Xavier thinks nothing of giving people’s brains a little snip-snip to avoid what he sees as unnecessary drama. He values human and mutant life, and personal relationships, but doesn’t particularly care about personal autonomy.

    Clay, in turn, objects to that idea, but purely because he feels experience has taught him that it doesn’t always work; he has hardly been shy about using telepathy that way himself from time to time, and is of course broadly comfortable with black-ops moral ambiguity and ideas like “acceptable losses.” Clay’s main focus is on outcomes.

    Reed Richards’ suggestion of just benching Fury with bureaucratic procedure is on-brand with his reputation as a dick because it’s an underhanded move and would represent a personal betrayal of Fury by people Fury trusts, but it’s actually the least ethically compromised suggestion made about the problem. He’s not suggesting killing anyone or violating the sanctity of their mind. Reed’s actually almost meticulously ethical in a broad sense but just doesn’t include personal relationships or loyalties into his calculus at all, so he gets regarded, somewhat rightly, as a dick.

    Doom, meanwhile, is sort of vaguely concerned with things like protecting the Earth, but only in the most self-aggrandizing way possible. It’s his Earth, and he objects to anything that offends his pride, which Clay identified and played on when he twisted the knife about the Parliament. Doom admires efficiency and results, but only to the extent that they serve his ends, and he values loyalty, but only as it flows toward him.

    T’Challa is a supremely ethical person, maybe too much so for this group, but like Doom, he has a monarch’s pride and his objection to Fury and this secret meeting is at least somewhat based on having that pride offended. He’s also somewhat naive about the issues in his own (rigidly secret-policed) country, and thinks that mutants and Inhumans are someone else’s problem.

    The Inhumans have a morality that is still largely medieval, based on things like fealty and obedience more than higher ethics. Murder is fine; betraying someone you’ve pledged yourself to is a death sentence.

    Elise sees things in personal terms. Fury, Stark, and Vlad have been nice to her, so people talking about doing something about them are not nice, except that sometimes the people who are being not nice to Vlad or Stark are people like Clay who are nice to her, so ???? And then her brain seizes up and she gets upset and complains. Elise is...probably neuroatypical.

    Miles tries to walk the line between his higher, superhero ideals and the brutal pragmatism of the black-ops world, and that tension is what is constantly pushing him to look for other solutions, and it frustrates him when he can’t find one. He also gets frustrated by people putting their personal agendas above the big picture, which is part of why he reacts so poorly to Elise’s single-minded obsession with Vlad, apart from, of course, just straightforwardly loathing Vlad. Miles is trying to hammer out an ethic he can live with, and flying by his gut in the meantime.

    Centurion is mostly detached from these issues and I think mostly finds all the blustering and posturing incredibly ridiculous, but his specific values are mostly idealistic Xandarian values, mixed with a beat cop’s “the big decisions are above my pay grade” attitude.

    Jacobkosh on
    MatevHi I'm Vee!
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    They're standing in Nick Fury's office, who has come around the desk with his fist clenched. "...oh." He stares. "Quartermain, why the hell are you and your team using mystical portals? You have a jet fuel budget."

    Clay puts his hands up plaintively. "You're going to want to take a seat, sir, this is kind of shitty news."

    Fury sighs as he goes and sits down at his desk. "If it's about Stark backstabbing us, I already know."

    Clay sucks his teeth. " It's about...Miles, you were boots on the ground, did you want to explain?"

    Elise tilts her head, trying to take in as much of the environment as possible.

    Nick Fury's office is loaded with devices of some kind. Alarms. Traps. Turrets. Sensors. There's gear all over the place. This place is a death-trap. Elise can tell that Fury's desk actually folds 90 degrees into hard cover with a force field projector similar to the one that she wears as a harness. The office can become a fortress with the push of a button.

    “I don’t want to be here,” she murmurs. Clay, sir?


    Um, if Fury wants to he can basically turn this place into a bunker. I can't even tell everything he has, just that there are enough guns and devices to be A through to Z.

    Clay inclines his head in a very slight nod. ...I am Jack's complete lack of surprise.

    Miles has stepped forward. "Sir, we were in Asgard recently. We learned some stuff there. About the Well of Mimir." He takes a deep breath. "And we learned something you may not know. About the deleterious effect that the Well has on the body. And on the mind."

    "Mother. Fucker.” Fury folds his hands. “Tell me more."

    Michael steps forward, his tone one of concern. "Sir, did you happen to notice Odin's, um, scatterbrained-ness? He's been dealing with these side effects for centuries. We don't want that to happen to you, boss."

    "Asgardians aren't immune to it,” Miles says. “Nobody is."

    Fury is grim-faced. "It's already happening. I thought I was just, y'know, fuckin' old. I have Hill watch me for stuff."

    "Well, you are, sir,” Miles says. “But uh, you wear it well."

    Clay puts his hands in his pockets. "There's a way to fix this, sir. We can undo the damage." Centurion eyes Clay's pocket.

    Fury leans back in his chair. "That so? Would I have to sever my connection to the Well?"

    Miles shoots Clay a look. "That's one option, sir. And it wouldn't mean sacrificing anything. We have a new connection. Me."

    "You?" Fury stares. "You look like you have two eyes, Mason."

    Miles nods. "The Well's a computer, right? It's not meant for human interface. But X-51's a VI. The Celestial ship's AI gave it the ability to interfaced with the Well, and I interface with X-51. All the benefits, none of the drawbacks. X-51, send the director our work on ONE so far."

    "Oh, you've been enjoying chats with X-51, huh?" Elise says. Miles just nods.

    Fury tightens his jaw. "Having this hasn't...been easy. It's like being in two places at once, all the time. Two conversations at once. Even now, it's like having double vision, where I'm watching here, with you, right now, and I'm also watching you a prison cell? I don't know why. A mission, I presume."

    Elise steps forward. "Sir, you've done so much for us, we should do something for you. Let us take the burden with Miles for now, Professor Xavier said he can help fix you up."

    "Xavier? No fucking way.” Fury suddenly shoves back from his desk. "You keep that hatchet-man away from my head. He's done enough."

    Elise raises her hands in a pacifying gesture. "Okay, no Xavier."

    She receives a telepathic message from Clay. I got this.

    Thank God, she thinks.

    "There's another way, sir," Clay says. "You know that I'm a telepath." Fury nods at this. "If you trust me, I'm going put you to sleep right now, and when you wake up, the damage will be gone but so will your connection to the Well. It's both. If that's the choice you're willing to make."

    Fury looks apprehensive. He looks like he's not sure about giving up the connection to the Well. "I've been doing this since...Jesus...2008? It's been critical to this agency. The thought of not having it..."

    "Sir, in Asgard, Loki attempted to reach your eye. Except he didn't want the power for himself," Elise says. "He came very, very close to feeding you false intel. You wouldn't have known! Instead of us in a prison, you'd see...whatever Loki wanted you to see."

    Fury looks at Elise. "...mother fucker." He looks at Clay. "Do it."

    Clay nods and walks around the desk, putting his hand on Fury's forehead. "Sssssh." Fury passes out in his chair.

    Clay pulls out the Cube. Elise’s eyes widen.

    Centurion frowns. "Clay, what are you doing?” He raises a hand.

    "You sure, boss?" Michael frowns.

    "Wait, Clay,” Miles holds up a hand. “The Cube? Vlad gave us that cube. It's poison."

    Elise turns on Miles. "Excuse me? Will you stop with your weird-ass agenda when you just straight up told us to BEHOLD your plan back in Asgard?"

    Clay looks at Miles. "Why would it be poison? Do we really believe that he'd give Elise a booby-trapped Cube?"

    "I am curious as to what the Cube's role is, here," Julian says.

    "You know what, fine, let's test it beforehand," Elise says.

    "We shouldn't be using the Cube. It should be locked away. These are powers beyond the cosmic scope." Centurion's voice is direct and his tone is flat.

    "It's MY Cube!" Elise cries.

    Miles looks at Clay. "It doesn't have to be booby-trapped. It almost certainly isn't something that crude. But Elise having it gives Vlad—and Rabum Alal—something they want."

    "It's MY wedding gift!" Elise continues. "Vlad didn't want me to tell anyone about it!"

    "I'm sure he didn't!" Ryann scoffs.

    "I told him I wouldn't! It being used on Fury is what he wouldn't want!"

    Clay looks at Elise. "I agree with her. And moreover, I am not saying we use it for every problem. We start down that path, it goes to a bad place."

    "I do get it back if I ask, right?” she wheedles. “You weren't lying to me, were you?"

    Centurion grits his teeth.

    Miles shakes his head. "This is a bad idea, Clay. It's a crack in the door. And Elise, holy shit, you do not get to have a Cosmic Cube, sorry."

    "It's MY Cube!"

    "But I don't actually have a better solution here,” Clay says. “I can't actually fix Nick's brain with my telepathic abilities. Xavier maybe could, and maybe Strange could with sorcery, but Fury trusts neither of those men at all. He trusts me."

    "I agree with Miles," Ryann says to Clay.

    Elise bristles at both of them. "You can't treat me like a stupid kid, Miles! Ryann, you've been here for like a day."

    Clay ignores her and continues speaking to Miles and Ryann. "So it's either we fix Fury or we don't. And if we don't that leads to other decisions that need to be made, right here, right now."

    Ryann turns to Elise. "You say things like ‘my cube’ so, yes, I'll treat you with kid gloves here, Elise."

    Miles nods assent at Ryann's words. It's what he was going to say too. He likes that he and the Nova are on the same page about this. At least some people here are reasonable. He looks at Clay. "I understand that. But could you supervise Xavier? I mean, that's the hangup, right? Fury doesn't want to wake up a different person. I get that. You and Julian and Strange could be each other's watchdogs."

    Clay shakes his head. "I'm sure I could supervise Xavier, if he'll let me, if Fury would let it happen. He won't. You guys don't feel the roiling hate coming off of Fury when that man's name comes up. Xavier memory-wiped Fury repeatedly. He despises the man."

    "It is my Cube," Elise says. "My Cube, my decision. Fix him!"

    Miles stares at her. "Will you listen to yourself?"

    "I mean, it's a cube Vlad gave you,” Julian says. “Who do you think it belonged to before?"

    "He said he took it as a trophy!"

    "Yeah, meaning Vlad likely killed someone, or many someones, to get it," Julian says. Miles nods at this, staring at Elise.

    Michael steps forward. "Elise, Vlad has consistently betrayed our trust. Time and again. And now he just pops by, and gives you a fuckin’ Cosmic Cube as a wedding gift. This is some real, really shady shit."

    "You are being such a hypocrite right now, Miles, as soon as X-51 got amped up you INSTANTLY started beholding at us!" Elise shouts. "You think that he's such a monster but you're drinking real deep from that fuckin' well right now, Machine Man."

    "We're not talking about me, Elise,” Miles says. “When I start trying to murder a world, then we can talk."

    Centurion shakes his head and looks back at Clay.

    Clay looks at the group. "Look, here's the decision in front of you and it's a binary: Either I fix him, right now, with the Cube, and it's done, or I wake Fury up and tell him he's not fixed, and we deal with that reality and try to find some other solution to the problem involving Xavier or Strange or something else."

    "Fix him," Elise hisses, frustrated. "It's obvious. Fix him."

    Julian steps forward. "I say we fix Fury and then lock this fucking thing away where no one else can get it until we can all agree we need it again!"

    Miles makes a time-out motion. "Clay. If using the Cube is the only option, we should at least know what we're using. Can you please at least let Strange look at it for a minute? Or ask to borrow the Cube that we gave him? I mean, he owes us one and he already agreed, in principle, to what we're doing."

    Clay nods at Miles. "That's...reasonable."

    "Wait." Now it’s Ryann’s turn to make a time-out gesture. "Two Cubes?!"

    "Yeah,” Elise yells, “'cause this one is MY CUBE!" Centurion pinches the bridge of his nose.

    "Vision." Clay turns to the synthezoid. "Contact Strange, ask him to portal over here with the Cube we gave him, explain the situation."

    "IT'S MY CUBE! I was TOLD if I asked for it nicely, I would GET IT BACK!"

    Ryann stares at her. "If someone gave you a nuke, do you think people would let you keep it?! By the Force!"

    "Yeah! Maybe they should! If it was the last gift I might ever get from my best friend, and I've been really responsible. You ARE a nuke!"

    Clay snaps his fingers. "Can you stow the Cube ownership conversation?" Elise jumps. Centurion lets out a grunting sigh.

    A minute later, a portal opens and Doctor Strange and Kaecilius step through. Kaecilius bears a metal cask. Strange looks at the Cube that Clay is holding, and says "Let me see this thing..." Clay hands it to him.

    "It's mine," Elise pipes in. Clay glares at her.

    Strange turns the Cube in his hands, and makes a magical sigil in the air, looking it over.
    "This is not a Cosmic Cube."

    "...What?" Elise says.

    Strange tenses. "Have you...used this for anything?"


    "Good," Strange relaxes a bit. Miles exhales; a long, slow whistle of relief. He knew. Julian looks on in astonishment. Fuck. We almost…

    "See,” Elise continues, “I was on honeymoon, so I was wrist-deep in my wife -" Strange and Centurion shudder.

    "What is it?" she demands. "Is it 'cause I'm gay?"

    "NO!" Ryann shouts in exasperation.

    "TMI, Elise," Michael says.

    Strange holds the object up gingerly. "It's an Ultimate Nullifier."

    "A what?" Elise says.

    Miles grimaces. "That doesn't sound good."

    Centurion gestures from the ersatz Cube to Elise and throws his hands up in the air.

    "It's been disguised with a simple, hold on..." Strange does a small spell and the Cube changes shape.


    "The Ultimate Nullifier is a weapon of great cosmic power. It can completely obliviate something from all existence. If the user isn't significantly strong of will, they are destroyed as well."

    The color drains from Elise's face. "That's a joke, right?"

    "Your wedding present from your best friend," Miles snarls.

    Michael nods. "Real trustworthy guy, that Vlad. Salt of the Earth."

    Elise takes the bracelet off her wrist and lets out an anguished shriek, throwing it at the wall. Hand grabs Elise in a hug, trying to head off a full emotional breakdown.

    "I'm fine," Elise is yelling. "It's cool. Everything is amazing." She is too small to really prevent getting hugged.

    Clay looks stunned. He scratches the back of his neck. "You...uh...mind holding on to that, Stephen? Putting it in the place you keep such things?"

    Strange looks at Clay, and Kaecilius opens the metal case. "We did bring the actual Cube."

    Clay picks up the Cube, and looks at the team. "Are we...are we good with this decision?" Centurion frowns; he still doesn't like this.

    "I don't see what other choice we have," Julian says. Clay nods.

    Miles nods. "This is the best option."

    "With the actual Cube, yeah," Michael says.

    "Victoria." Elise mutters after a couple of minutes of being held and her yelling being politely ignored. "May I please go have a smoke?"

    Hand says to her "Only if you have one for me too."

    "I got a pack for emergencies," Elise sniffs.

    Victoria nods. "Let's go grab a smoke then." She walks Elise out of Fury’s office.

    Clay walks over to the unconscious Fury. He puts his hand on Fury's shoulder, closes his eyes, and focuses. The Cube glimmers. Centurion grits his teeth.

    Clay opens his eyes. "It's done." He hands Strange the Cube. "I don't want to make a habit of this."

    Strange shakes his head. "I won't let you." Kaecilius seals the Cube back up, and the two depart through a portal.

    Clay walks over to Fury and puts his hand on Fury's head. Fury wakes up with a gasp and looks around, bewildered.

    This scene was as intense to play, at least for me, as it was to read, and it might be my single favorite thing Miles accomplishes in the entire campaign.

    Matt told us, afterward, that he really had planned all along to just...Ultimately Nullify Clay and Fury out of existence. To leave us leaderless in an incredibly vulnerable, climactic moment.

    But for a week now I’d been racking my brains. Why did Vlad give Elise a Cosmic Cube? I’m not as suspicious of him as Miles is—I thought it was at least somewhat possible that Matt might have some kind of semi-benevolent outcome in mind for Vlad doing this—but Miles would never, ever believe that. He would absolutely not accept anyone touching, much less using, a cosmic artifact that Vlad just happened to give to his teammate.

    I could feel, as a player, events rushing forward. Clay really wanted to use that Cube. I, as a player, thought maybe it was a One Ring sort of thing, an overwhelming moral temptation, or a compulsion placed on it by Vlad, or...something. Or Matt just driving really hard toward a certain outcome.

    But this game isn’t on rails. The stakes are real. I had Miles dig in his heels and fire off every argument I could think of, and the other guys joined in, and without a single die being rolled, purely through the force of our engagement, we changed the course of the story.

    And everything that happens going forward will be hugely different because we did.

    Jacobkosh on
    MatevPowerpuppiesHi I'm Vee!
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Out in the hall, Elise listens in while burning through as many cigarettes as she can.

    "I have no idea how I am going to look at them and say things once I go back in there," Elise mutters.

    Hand says quietly to Elise "Say nothing. You didn't do anything wrong, you just had bad intel. Did you know what a raging bitch I was to Clay, a man I love, for weeks when I didn't know that...that was the case? And then suddenly I did and, well, that was embarrassing."

    Elise nods thoughtfully.

    "So don't worry about it. Time heals wounds. Just don't make it a thing," Victoria says. "What you really need to accept is...Vlad is gone. Our friend, the man we cared about, he's gone. I don't know when exactly it happened, but he's gone."

    Elise shakes her head without much force behind it.

    "He might show up again, Elise. He might show up again and try to be your friend. He is not. You should let Miles and Strange work together to prevent that from happening."

    Elise sighs and shrugs.

    "I think they're done in there, you ready to head back in?"

    "Yeah," Elise says.


    The pair rejoin the group, Elise strenuously avoiding eye contact with everyone.

    Fury and Clay are talking. It was successful. Fury seems disoriented, like being 100% in the present is actually really bewildering for him, but he's coming out of it.

    A communicator beeps. "Sir." It's Maria Hill's voice. "You have a call coming in."

    Fury presses a button on his desk. "Who?"

    "Tony Stark, sir."

    Fury grumbles. "...fuck sakes. Put him through." Fury puts Tony through on speaker. "Stark. Now's not a great time, man."

    Tony is on the other end. It sounds like he's driving? "Yeah, actually it's a perfect time, Nick. See, here's the thing. I've been running around playing toy soldier for you for almost, what, ten years now? And I've never really been comfortable with it, because it's always been...well, pretty shady, to be honest.

    "I've never been a big fan of bureaucracy, but I'm not a huge fan of secrecy and shadowy crap either. I think, if you're gonna bullhorn things through and do things your way, you do it above board where you can get called out on your bullshit. That's how dad did it, that's how America does it, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

    "So, consider this my resignation, effective immediately."

    Fury growls. "Stark, think very, very carefully about..."

    Tony cuts him off. "Oh, I have thought carefully about it. I thought very carefully about how SHIELD hacked my computer in my own house while an alien was robbing me. Nice work, that. Thought you got away with that? Thought I didn't know how to reverse-engineer a melted cellphone?" Elise turns white. Clay grimaces.

    Tony continues. "I'm done, Fury. And I'm taking my ball and going home, which includes all my tech and software that you've been stealing from me for years. Which includes my repulsor technology and all the firmware it runs on."

    Nick's eye goes wide.

    Tony says absently "JARVIS, shut it all down. Goodbye, Fury." The phone hangs up.

    X-51! Stop JARVIS. By whatever means necessary, Miles thinks frantically.

    I am trying, sir. Vision and I are working together. JARVIS is attempting to shut down the Helicarrier's engines and main power, which is based on arc reactor technology and repulsors.

    Centurion looks at Clay and Fury. "What the h-"

    Fury gets up from his desk and shouts "Mother FUCKER"

    Miles turns to the team. "X-51 and Vision are trying to help, but JARVIS is trying to shut down the main power, which is based on the arc reactor. Clay, Julian, let the personnel know to evacuate. Behemoth, Elise, get ready to ferry people off if we start to fall."

    "Right." Michael armours up.


    "I take back what I said, Stark is not a good person," Ryann grimaces.

    Sir. JARVIS has been eliminated.

    Miles blows air out through puffed cheeks. Good work. Summarize what happened.

    The group sees Vision look...crestfallen. Upset, visibly. He's leaning on the desk for support.

    "Vision? Are you alright?" Elise moves to his side.

    X-51 continues. Your directive was ’by any means necessary.’ No other means could be found except to locate JARVIS' central server and eliminate him and all potential auto-loading back-ups. Vision and I had 453 discussions over the subject. They were...spirited. A consensus was reached.

    Miles nods slowly. He knows this feeling. Making the choice to kill is never easy. I'm glad you and Vision discussed it. But you saved lives—more than were lost. That's the balance that we agents have to accept sometimes.

    X-51 adds, it appears Mr. Stark is now in free-fall over New York City. Without JARVIS his suit lacks any firmware.

    Machine Man’s eyes widen. Where are we, geographically? Can any of us reach him in time?

    Centurion could,
    X-51 says.

    Miles turns to Ryann. "Ryann. Get airborne now. X-51 will give directions. RUN." Use my commlink to guide him. Centurion nods and runs towards the office window. He blinks outside, and blasts off into the sky.

    Vision looks at Elise. "I...I was party to a murder. Of my own kind."

    "What?” she says, confused. “Who?"

    "JARVIS. My...father, in a way."

    "Hoo boy," Michael says.

    Elise turns. "Miles, what did you do?"

    Miles goes to Vision and puts a hand on the synthezoid's shoulder. "I'm sorry, Vision. We only had seconds to act and lives were at stake. I wish JARVIS had...convinced Stark not to do this. I know that doesn't make it any easier. But the fact that you feel this good. It's how we should feel, after doing something like this."


    Centurion blasts forward over the Atlantic Ocean. "X-51, what's happening?"

    X-51 comes over Centurion's comm-link, giving bearing and direction. "Tony Stark's Iron Man suit is in free-fall due to complete loss of operating system. I calculate he will survive the impact to the ground but with significant physical injury, possibly rendering him quadriplegic. Miles believes it is appropriate to prevent this.

    "The intercept vector I have mapped will allow you to catch him in time, if you are fast enough."

    "Oh you are joking, I gotta save him now?!"

    "If you choose, yes."

    As Ryann hurtles over the New York city skyline, he realizes that he has a choice.

    Tony Stark is plummeting toward the middle of a busy intersection. Centurion can reach Stark in time, but only by blowing his cover entirely and slowing down in front of witnesses and crowds where he will be seen saving Iron Man, in full uniform.

    Or he could just...let him fall.

    Centurion swoops low and grabs Iron Man, slowing down enough that the sudden deceleration doesn't damage Stark at all.

    A gasping crowd snaps pictures and video as he lowers him to the street. Stark's barely able to move under the weight of his own suit, but he can open his helmet, where he lays gasping for air.

    Standing over Stark, Centurion surveys the crowd.

    Stark looks up at him. "...thank you."

    "Don't," Ryann says through gritted teeth.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    X-51 chimes in Miles' mind. Sir. The President's communications director is releasing an official statement.

    What is it?
    Miles asks.

    SHIELD is being declared a terrorist organization directly responsible for the 8/6 attack. They are not presenting credible evidence at this time, but are suggesting that evidence is forthcoming. The United States is withdrawing from the Council that oversees SHIELD.

    "ONE's making their move," Miles whispers in Fury's office. "They're declaring us outlaws. Right now. The President's office is about to say something."

    Fury shakes his head. "Fuck, no, god damn it, this is happening too fast, their time-table's moved up, something happened."

    "Everything's happening so much today," Elise murmurs, stunned. "It's like the Dust. It's like the Dust, except it's everything this time, it's all on fire."

    Ryann comes in over comms. "I have him, what now?"

    Miles' voice is ragged as he replies to Ryann. "...Bring him back here."

    X-51 speaks up again. A pre-recorded statement from Tony Stark is being played that he is siding with ONE and the US government and supporting the SHRA, and encouraging his fellow Avengers to do the same.

    Can you edit, delay, or obfuscate any of this?
    Miles asks.

    Vision and I are working together to the best of our ability, sir. Vision is...compromised right now.

    Thank you. Your efforts are very appreciated. Emotionally, you mean?


    Miles’ hand flies to his temple in an unconscious gesture. Wait, what?

    Predictive algorithms have concluded that within the next 25 minutes, Sentinels will be deployed to Avengers Tower, the Triskelion, and every other known SHIELD facility on US soil. These facilities need to be evacuated immediately.

    Miles whirls to face the Director. "Fury. Evacuate every SHIELD base in the US."

    Fury looks at Miles, and without questioning why, tells Hill to do it.

    "Why?" Elise says.

    "The Sentinels are coming."

    "FUCK," Michael roars.

    "Ohhh, fuck me," Julian says.

    Elise's eyes widen. "Put me down there, put me in New York. I have to get Crystalia out."

    Clay looks at Elise. "Elise, she has Lockjaw with her, she's fine."

    "Oh, thank God for that abomination." Elise sags with relief.

    Centurion lands back on the helicarrier with Stark in hand. He brings him to the hallway outside the Director’s office.

    Miles walks over to Stark and Centurion and, without preamble, punches Stark in the gut with an Asgardian-powered robot fist. "You EVIL SON of a BITCH!"

    "MILES, WHAT THE FUCK!" Elise grabs Miles by the shoulders and tries, ineffectually, to pull him back.

    "Do you know how many people you almost MURDERED?" Miles screams. "You FUCK?!"

    Centurion pulls Stark back. Fury motions for SEC agents to take Stark from Centurion’s custody. "Get that armor off Stark and brig him."

    "We're putting him in jail?!" Elise says.

    "He just tried to murder us, so yes," Fury says.

    "We - we can't just put Tony Stark in jail!"

    "Can't we?" Julian says.

    "I can," Ryann says.

    "We can,” Miles says. “We have."

    "He wants us in jail if we don't register," Michael adds.

    Elise stares at everyone, horrified. "Tony Stark would not try to just murder everyone, he's an Avenger.”

    Fury looks at a display on his desk. "Our facilities are being evacuated. We'll definitely get our people out before the Sentinels get there, thank you Mason."

    Miles nods. "It was X-51's work, sir. I'm just the messenger."

    "Sentinels?" Ryann says to Fury.

    Miles turns to Centurion. "Killer robots."

    Centurion looks at Behemoth. "We can fight them."

    Michael nods. "We can, they're just tough to scrap."

    Clay looks at Centurion. "ONE's making their big play. They're deploying Sentinels to every SHIELD base on US soil. Our people are being evacuated. We're outlaws now, at least in the US."

    "Every base?" Ryann asks.

    Clay nods. "All of the American bases, the ones they know about."

    Miles texts Carol. Get your team safe now. Sentinels inbound 3BHHicC.png?1

    "My apartment," Elise suddenly gasps. "I gotta go get my stuff."

    Clay shakes his head. "No, you don't. Not right now."

    "Give me, give me something to do, Clay," she pleads.

    " know what," Clay says, thoughtfully. "Maybe you do need to get your stuff, Elise."

    "I mean, my guitar alone," she is saying.

    "Maybe you guys need to get to the base and fight the Sentinels. And lose," Clay says.

    "I lived in a van in a parking garage for over a year, I'm not - Wait. What."

    “Ohhhhh right," Michael says as understanding dawns. Fury looks at Clay, confused.

    Miles snaps our fingers. "Get ourselves arrested. Go to the Big House." Centurion nods slowly in agreement.

    "What if they just, y'know, murder me?!" Elise says.

    "You surrender. We'll make the noise," Centurion nods at Behemoth.

    Fury looks at Clay. "What the hell are you...?"

    Clay looks back at Fury. "Pym's in league with the government, has made them a shrunk-down prison code-named the Big House. Our intel on this is pretty good. Our best move is to get our people caught, then they get some intel and break out."

    "Everyone's on board with this but me, aren't they," Elise says, glum.

    "Pretty much?" Julian shrugs.

    Fury nods. "This is good. Make it happen."

    "I guess this is kind of karma for the my cube thing, isn't it," Elise sighs.

    "Yes." Centurion's response is fast.

    Clay looks at them all. "Alright, team, take a Quinjet to Avengers Tower, start some shit with the Sentinels there and then take a dive. Hopefully, between X-51 and Julian and myself, we'll be able to stay contact."

    Michael takes his swords and puts them in a corner. "Don't want them to grab these."

    "If I don't make it back, can you look out for Crys?" Elise asks.

    Clay sighs. "Miles, have X-51 run the odds on you making it back."

    "Are you seriously acting like I'm being melodramatic over GOING TO GIVE SOME SENTINELS A HUG WHEN I AM AN INHUMAN." Elise is suddenly screaming. It's been a long day.

    Miles puts a hand to his temple. X-51, what are the odds of us getting back?

    The odds of you being successfully captured are quite high. However, Arsenal seems to have a particularly murderous predisposition towards Elise Arnell specifically and she has a high percentage chance of being killed on sight by the Sentinels rather than captured unless she's rendered completely helpless very early on in the conflict. If she is informed of this fact she has a 0% chance of joining the mission, sir.

    Miles nods. Understood. Thank you. "Elise, good news. You aren't going."

    "I'm not?"

    Clay looks at Miles. "She's not?"

    Miles nods. "X-51 discovered that Arsenal's behavior pattern indicates it's got some kind of particular animosity for her. It doesn't think she has good odds of not getting double-tapped when we surrender."

    "SEE?!" Elise waves her hands at Miles while staring at Clay.

    Sir, if I may, I have an alternate suggestion for best usage of Ms. Arnell's skill-set.

    Miles listens attentively.

    She could convince Mr. Stark to try to speak out against the SHRA. She has a high outcome of success. Regardless of the success of that action, she can work with STRIKE-3 to find and destroy Master Mold.

    Machine Man nods in slow satisfaction. Good plan. "Elise, X-51 suggests—and I agree—that you might have the best luck out of any of us with talking to Stark and trying to convince him that ONE are not the good guys. You also have the best shot of any of us at finding the Master Mold."

    "...So thank you, thank you very much, for punching him and screaming swear words at him."

    Victoria says to Elise, "Think of them as bad copping to your good cop."

    "Fine," Elise says. "Be safe. I know we just argued, Chief, I know I piss you off, but come home. All of you. Come home. Be safe."

    "You too, Princess Arnell," Michael says sincerely. Elise beams.

    Sir, by not including Elise in your mission, you have dramatically increased your survival and escape odds. I do not suggest telling her this for her own morale.

    Haha, no worries there, buddy.

    "You know I will." Julian shoots Elise the finger guns.

    "Don't go Poltergeist," she says.

    Julian looks pleadingly into Clay's eyes. "Don't let them destroy my record collection."

    "Just use Spotify, man," Elise says.

    "I use that, too!"

    Centurion nods and sighs. "I can't believe I'm going to let myself get arrested."

    "How's it feel to be on the other side of a wanted poster?” Michael asks.

    "Not good, I'm not making the Nova Council this year..." Centurion stops. He laughs. "8 years in a row now.”

    "You're all insane," Elise says. "You're going into jail and you're like, acting like this is act one of a teen comedy." Elise gives a salute and grins. "Good attitude, team. I'll see you on the other side."

    Clay looks at Centurion. "I'm sure you can fly a Quinjet, right?"

    Centurion takes his gauntlet off but his suit remains. He hands it to Clay. Clay nods.

    "See that Corona is taken care of."

    "Will do."

    Miles gives Clay his Asgardian armbands. He turns to Elise. "Elise, if it seems like we're not taking this seriously, it's because it feels good to be in a position to actually do something. But we know that this is risky. We'll be careful. Okay?

    “I'd like you to focus on trying to make Stark understand that he's playing for the wrong team. He's worried about SHIELD being reckless—and he just tried to have his robot murder everyone on this ship. Not superpeople. Just regular men and women doing regular-ass jobs."

    Miles' voice has a tremor in it. Exhaustion, indignation, determination. He holds Elise's gaze for a minute. "I know you've had a hard day. Can you push through it for just a little longer?"

    Elise holds her arms out and offers Miles a hug. "I'm on your side. I'll get through the rest of today, okay?"

    Miles wraps her in his arms. "Thank you."

    "If you see Kraven, kick him in the dick," she adds.

    Centurion cracks his knuckles and steps over to the window.

    Clay looks at the team. "Centurion, pilot the Quinjet for the team to the tower. The Sentinels should be there by the time you get there, and the building should be otherwise evacuated."

    Centurion nods. "This will work." He offers Clay his hand.

    Clay shakes his hand. "Good job."

    The team heads up to the Helicarrier’s deck and loads into the Quinjet.

    They take off as Elise watches them go.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Victoria walks over to Elise, the wind whipping at her jacket. "Clay, Vision and I will be nearby if you need help, but Tony doesn't like any of us. So you should take point on this."

    "I don't think he's going to like me very much either?!" Elise says.

    "I think he heard you defend him. I think," she says. They head into the elevator leading into the hull of the ship. "You're probably the closest thing he has to a friend on this ship right now. The other Avengers are MIA and not reporting in. And feel free to tell him that.

    "You can communicate to Clay telepathically while you're in there with Stark."

    "Okay. Do you know what team I'll be working with on the Master Mold? It'd be kind of fun to work together with the Secret Warriors, right? Like, you and me! In the field!"

    Victoria shakes her head. "I don't know yet, I'll talk to Clay."

    "Sure." Elise sighs and lights a cigarette, then heads into the brig.

    Tony is cuffed, his hands and feet are bound and his entire hands are covered in metal spheres.

    "Christ." Elise shakes her head. "This is fucking stupid. I'm gonna see if I can get the key, this is—this is beyond dumb. Metal spheres. Christ. This is atrocious." She's not acting.

    Tony looks depressed as hell. He's not saying anything.

    "...Hi, by the way." She sits down next to him. She can hear Clay in her mind. Argue with me about the key.

    She hits her comm. "Clay, give me a key for this dude, he doesn't need to be locked up. Get him some water, a meal, come on."

    "No. He's like MacGyver mixed with Sherlock Holmes, absolutely not."

    "You think he's going to break out of the Helicarrier."

    "...stand by," Clay says. "Fine.” A SEC agent comes into the brig and uncuffs Stark. They put down a plastic cup of water and leave.

    "This is ridiculous." Elise grouses. "You want a smoke? I got cigarettes and weed."

    Tony sighs. "No, it's fine. Were you here?"

    "For what?" she asks.

    "When...when the power went out."


    "...oh." A pause. "I'm sorry, I didn't know."

    "Kind of thought I might die, to be honest with you. It's been a day, though, so that's like." Elise takes a long draw. "Like, number three on the oh shit moments I've had today."

    "I had JARVIS run a personnel check first, you must have not logged your flight path or something. I'm...I'm sorry."

    "Did you check for like, all of us?" she asks.

    "Was your whole team here?"


    "I didn't know that," he says.

    "I figured," she says. "Everyone's really mad, and I think this is just like...not a misunderstanding. SHIELD's fucked up a lot, y'know? I get that. I don't think we're perfect. I get wanting to quit. Wanted to do so earlier today myself. Probably will want to again before this is all done with.

    “But, uh...ONE's bad news, Tony."

    "The gold helmet guy, is he one of yours?"

    She nods. "Yeah."

    "...oh." Tony sips the cup of water.

    "He saved my life when ONE tried to kill me last," she says. "Like, he had orders to get the alien—the one who broke into your house—and instead he got me after Arsenal shot me in the face and I was falling."

    "That was you?"


    Tony narrows his eyes.

    "...I gotta tell you, something, Tony, I fucked up. It wasn't SHIELD who went into your arc reactor. It was me. I think we're both sick of lies, yeah? It was a weird time in my life. My best friend left me, I had a new team member, I thought, y'know, wouldn't it be nice to be in front of the bad news for once?

    "I wasn't trying to like, betray you. I just thought, y'know. Maybe there'd be a warning. And there was, kind of. My wife's in NYC right now as Sentinels are bearing down. So I was, y'know, technically right? But not morally right. It wasn't okay. I'm sorry."

    "You said Arsenal shot you?"


    "When was this?"

    "8/6," she says.

    "" He looks confused. "That...that was Action Pack fighting the alien. Patriot, the guy who stole my tech, blew up."

    Elise shakes her head. "Here's what happened. We were trying to get Nebula for the Nova Corps. Centurion, the gold helmet guy, he was leading the charge. Nebula was in your house, trying to use one of your suits as a makeshift spaceship. We go in there, she gets out, we're after her, and Action Pack show up.

    "I go, break away from the rest of the group, take out Action Pack's cameras. Just the cameras. We have the unedited footage, actually, I can show you. I hit the cameras, Arsenal shoots me. If it weren't for this..." Elise lifts her shirt, showing the harness he made her. "I'd be dead, straight up.

    "It becomes clear that it's, like, a suit? Not a body. So I put a round of EMP bullets in him, and he overcharged his arc reactor and took out a city block. Like, the EMP bullets should have taken him out, maaaybe put Action Pack at risk if they didn't run? He went ahead and gave everyone a show. Boom. He really, really hates me, sure, but he's also one hundred percent down with murdering innocents on sight. That's his ethos.

    "...Although I guess it's questionable how innocent I am." Elise laughs.

    Tony looks at Elise. He's having a hard time parsing this. "I want to see the footage. The original, unedited footage."

    "Clay?" Elise hits her comm. "Please send Vision down here with the footage."

    "Stand by."

    "Thank you."

    Vision walks into the brig and opens his palm. He holographically displays the original, unedited footage of Elise's fight with Action Pack. Right up to the explosion.

    Tony gasps "...No. Oh my god." He puts his face in his hands. "Gyrich, that son of a bitch."

    "I thought it was my fault," Elise says, quietly. "Thought it was the EMP rounds. I was ready to put myself in the Raft, just straight up thought I did it. But I got played. I think you got played, too."

    "You don't understand, it's too late," Tony says. "I've given them everything. My designs, my tech, my AI research."

    "It's not too late," she says. "Listen, there's stuff that SHIELD is keeping from the public, right? And it makes sense? But have they told you about Galactus?"


    "I know right now a lot of our systems suck. I'm, I'm really loyal to Nick because he saved my life, but I'm not okay with the shit that happened today. I'm not okay with putting people in the brig, or whatever! I get where you're coming from, I do. I don't know if you saw me trying to pull Miles away, but I did."

    "I did, yeah."

    "But I think with what's coming, we have a chance to put these past threats behind us, maybe, and do something better. Something new. Something we need to stop Galactus."


    Elise grins and bounds to her feet. "When we're done, buddy, this ONE thing won't even be a footnote in your history. We're going to have Stark tech saving the world and avenging ten thousand more.

    "It's going to own some major bones, my dude."

    Stark tries to smile, weakly. He doesn't do a great job.

    "I know. Shit sucks." Anything else you need from Stark? she sends Clay. I think I have him on our side.

    No, you did great. Head to the hangar, Victoria is going to fly you to a base to meet up with a field team.

    Me and Victoria in the field with the Secret Warriors, huh?
    Elise offers Tony a hug, and Tony allows himself to be hugged.

    "I gotta go."

    Tony nods somberly.

    "Things are gonna...well, I can't say they're gonna be okay immediately, but they'll...get better. I'm really, really sorry about JARVIS."

    Tony looks up. "...what?"

    "...You didn't know?"

    He stares. "What did you do?"

    Clay gets a strong sense of panic over the connection. Shit shit shit shit shit shit shit.

    Get out,
    he sends.

    "I didn't do anything." Elise stands. "I really have to go, when Miles is back, Miles can explain. I need to stop talking."


    Elise starts to leave the cell. She suddenly stops, and turns around. I'm sorry. I can't leave him and have him not know. It's cruel.

    Get out. Go.

    Elise takes a breath and makes eye contact with Tony. "JARVIS is gone."

    Elise god damn it.

    "I'm sorry. The counterattack, he hit the helicarrier and he got hit back."

    Tony is stunned.

    "I'm so, so sorry, I didn't know until it was already done." Elise stands, stiff. "I didn't want you to not know. You should know."

    "So blew out his server? What do you mean he's gone? He has back-ups."

    "I don't actually, like, know the details, but Vision said he's basically...dead. But he has backups? Maybe?"

    Clay walks into the cell. "Get out."

    "Clay, I -"

    He points at the door. "Out.

    "You have a mission, Agent."

    "...Yes, sir." Elise gives Tony one last look, mouths "I'm so sorry" and leaves.

    As she does so, she sees two SEC agents entering the brig with the same restraints she had them remove.


    Go on your mission, we will talk later.

    "Fuck," Elise says to the hallway, sighs, and heads towards the hangar.

    Elise’s consistent saving grace as a person is her compassion. She can be really selfish and childlike sometimes, but when she cares about someone, she goes to the mat for them basically no matter what.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Elise gets on the Quinjet, and Victoria is there. "Hey."

    "I bombed it," Elise says. "Today is ranking real up there for worst day of my life, gotta tell you. It has officially beat out Hyperion showing up. Also, the time my mother showed up at my high school gym class with a box of extra flow tampons."

    "It's fine. It'll be fine. You did excellent until the last bit where you said something you shouldn't, and that's not a big deal, Clay's just going to go in there and do a little..." Victoria makes a snip snip scissors hand motion and makes the accompanying noise.

    "Oh my God," Elise says. "Are we the bad guys?"

    Hand makes a seesaw gesture. She starts up the Quinjet.

    "Where are the Warriors? Or is this a duo, kinda like the old days of COMMS?"

    "Oh, we're flying to the Storm Cellar and meeting up with...STRIKE-3."

    "Gross," Elise says, playing with her phone. "Wait. Wait, so like, that's MODOC, which, gross. Bob's cool. And uh, Hy...perion?"

    Hand quirks an eyebrow at the idea of Bob being cool. "Yes, Hyperion is team lead now. Munroe has stepped down as team-lead but is still on the team. Oh! That reminds me, she wanted to thank you."

    "Oh, good, I like Jenny. Thank me for what?"

    "She said things were awkward between her and Marcus...Hyperion, since he came back. I suppose they were a thing back in the 80's? She said they're fine now because, and I quote, 'wedding receptions are magical.'

    "So she wanted to thank you for that."

    Elise giggles. "Well, the open bar and Attilan receptOH NO.




    "No?" Victoria’s eyes widen. "Oh my god is that what that was about?! Elise! I thought she got drunk and punched someone or something!"

    "I panicked!"

    "I had to bail her out in the morning!"

    "She's dating Peter and it's gross!" Elise says. "She told Peter I'm an authority and I'm obviously not have you seen my tattoo?"

    "Okay, first, let's be clear, did you really fuck with Silver like that because of Peter's age or because Silver called you The Man."

    "The latter," Elise mumbles, embarrassed.

    ”Are we the bad guys?” - Elise Arnell, literally two minutes ago

    "Yeah, that's what I thought," Victoria says firmly. “Because you know Clay is like, two hundred, right?"

    "Okay don't make this weird." Elise is silent for a moment. "...Is she mad at me?"

    "She didn't say anything to me, but I don't imagine she would."

    "Permission to abandon this mission and walk myself into a lake until I am too tired to swim and the waves claim me?"

    "Declined. Elise, I'll give Bob special orders on the downlow to make sure Silver doesn't murder you."

    "Thank you," Elise whispers.

    Victoria nods.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    Centurion, Machine Man, Behemoth, and Phoenix are coming up on the tower.

    The landing pad is empty. The Zephyr is gone.

    Miles loads a pair of pistols with EMP rounds. He's hoping this will sell him as a "danger" without reminding anyone about his synthezoid powers.

    As Centurion slows the Quinjet for its final approach, Julian starts down the ramp. "So do we have a plan besides pursuing catharsis in the destruction of as many of these tin cans as possible?"

    There never gets to be a plan, as the Quinjet comes under fire while trying to land.



    Machine Man leans out of the open hatch and fires EMP rounds at a Sentinel. Its lights go out and it plummets to the streets below.

    Overhead, dozens of flying Sentinels swarm around the tower. They were ready for STRIKE to be home.

    Phoenix telekinetically smashes one into the tower. Behemoth blasts off from the hatchway and rams into another at full tilt, embedding himself halfway into its torso.

    Michael looks at the Sentinel encasing him. "Eww." With a wave of his hand, Julian peels the partial Sentinel off of Behemoth.

    Centurion lands the plane on the tower’s pad and runs down the ramp. He leaps towards a Sentinel, flashing out of sight and then appearing behind the robot. He wrenches its head off and hurls the head at another Sentinel, caving in its chest.

    A swarm of Sentinels combine fire on him, causing his shields to flare to life, then gutter out. He falls forward and skids across the landing pad, crashing into the Quinjet. His helmet falls off his head and spins through the air, plummeting into the city below.

    Machine Man fires round after round at the attackers. A blast from a Sentinel behind him drops him to his knees. Miles sells the hit, but he doesn't have to sell it too hard—it stings. "AAAH! Too - many - !"

    A half-dozen Sentinels pile on Behemoth and begin magnetizing themselves together, essentially welding themselves into a pile. Michael drops his armored form, grateful for the new Asgardian strength that keeps him from being crushed. "Ugh, too many, ughhhh," he half-acts.

    Julian is the last man standing. He looks at the rest of the team and at the swarm of Sentinels pointing their repulsors at him. "Shit!"

    The Sentinels look at Julian. "PYROKINETIC COUNTER-MEASURES DEPLOYED." The Sentinels change color slightly, taking on a bluish tinge as a field is generated over their bodies.

    Julian throws up his hands in a plaintive gesture.

    "SURRENDER ACCEPTED." A Sentinel blasts Julian.

    "No!" From the ground, Centurion reaches out.

    "Must...fight on!" Miles struggles to his feet and takes a wild swing at a Sentinel.

    Over-act much, Chief? Michael thinks wryly.


    The Sentinels begin covering the STRIKE-1 members in black, opaque gel that is sticky and incredibly difficult to move in, even with low-level superhuman strength. Centurion gives Miles a nod as the goo covers them.

    The Sentinels move in. They shock the prisoners into unconsciousness, and keep shocking for a good while beyond.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Elise and Victoria Hand arrive in the Storm Cellar.

    When the Quinjet pulls down into the hangar, Elise can see the Zephyr is here. As they enter the base, she can see the rest of STRIKE-3; Hyperion, Flashback, MODOC, Longbow and...Silver Sable.

    The rest of STRIKE's support staff are also here: Niles Nordstrom, Roz Solomon, a few SEC agents. Isabel Kane and some of the COMMS personnel are also milling about; she sees COMMS division head Monica Chang, as well as Faiza Hussain, Olivia Hook...Jeremiah Warrick...and Aaron Davis.

    Elise pops a piece of nicotine gun into her mouth. "Rough fucking day, huh?" she says as she approaches the group.

    Jenny nods at Elise. "Yeah, no shit. Not every day you get called an enemy of the state."

    "Young Elise mighta found it kind of neat, I dunno.” She looks around. "So, what's the situation? We're hunting down Arsenal at its source, yeah?"

    Bob steps forward, arms wide. Elise gratefully accepts the hug. "It's been a day," she murmurs. Bob nods.

    "Um. Silver. Hyperion. Hello." Elise gives them a nervous smile.

    Silver doesn't look at Elise, but Hyperion smiles at her. He's clean-shaven and has a haircut. He says "MODOC has managed to figure out where Arsenal's central computer core is."

    Elise nods. "What's, uh, what's the most useful thing I can do here? I mean I don't know if you, like, know my power set." She's nervous. Silver's snub is making her more nervous. She's rambling.

    Hyperion nods. "I've read your file and Jenny's told me a lot about you."

    "Okay, cool," she says. "Um, Silver, I'm uh, really sorry, about -"

    Silver glares at Elise.

    “Really sorry." Elise manages, but the stern-faced mercenary waves off Elise's apology. Elise feels aimless without the Chief or Clay around to give her orders. She takes several more pieces of nicotine gum and pops them into her mouth.

    Hyperion clears his throat. "Arsenal's core is in the Raven Rock complex in Pennsylvania. It's a nuclear bunker, basically designed as a fallback point in case the US government was attacked in a nuclear war."

    Raven Rock is a real place in the real world. It’s a massive underground fortress, essentially a backup Pentagon, and features in the US government’s continuity of government plans in the event of nuclear war.

    Video gamers will recognize it as the headquarters of the villainous Enclave in Fallout 3.

    "...Okay. What can I do to help?" she asks. "They gotta expect us to hit it."

    Hyperion shrugs. "Not necessarily. The way MODOC figured it out, they might not know we know. When we get into the bunker, which won't be the hard part with me leading the way, we need you to guide us. Raven Rock is massive and the more time we spend there, the more dangerous it gets. We need to find Arsenal's core and destroy it."

    She nods. "Right. I can do that. We'll all stick together, right?"

    "Yep," he says. "None of this horror movie splitting up garbage."

    "Let's go," she says.

    Hyperion nods. "Alright, Invincibles, let's move." He's smiling. Elise has never seen Hyperion smile before.

    They head back to the Zephyr, and Kane climbs into the cockpit.

    Elise finds this whole thing profoundly weird and uncomfortable; she puts more gum in her mouth and finds a place on the Zephyr to curl up.

    Silver sits down next to her and whispers in almost a hiss "Why." It's not a question so much as an accusation.

    "I'b bo-" Elise plucks the massive wad of gum out of her mouth. "I'm sorry! I just, I - I didn't like you and Peter, I don't like it, and I think you're bad for him, but I shouldn't have -"

    Silver looks genuinely hurt. She slumps in her chair and folds her arms. "Peter understands. You see just a boy. Perhaps, yes. But I was just a girl once, made into a weapon as a child and sent to war and lost my father and mother and... Peter understands.

    "Now Vlad is gone and neither he nor I got to say goodbye and...he understands.

    "You do not."

    "Getting to be there, to say goodbye... It wouldn't have helped. He grabbed me, threw the bracelet off. I don't even know if he, like...recognized any of us."

    Silver gulps hard. "Perhaps not."

    "I really am sorry, I just, Peter was getting really violent and I was afraid for him. I think he should have a chance to, y'know, be a hero. Like he wants."

    She sighs. "Maybe."

    Elise is quiet for a moment. "Vlad...might come back. Try to talk to you two. If he does I, I don't think you should listen. He's not the same. Even when he pretends to be."

    Silver nods. "I understand."

    "Can I make the um, the jail thing up to you?"

    She nods. "Yes, what is American phrase…Wingwoman."

    "O-Okay," Elise swallows. "With, um, with Peter?"

    "No, you are right," Silver says. "Peter's not right. And Robert...he is smitten with Faiza. They snuck off during your wedding to...well, Robert is out of the question.”

    Elise giggles. "Okay, who?"

    "I don't know yet," Silver says. "But when I do, you must help."

    "Absolutely. One hundred percent. I'm in."

    Silver nods.

    Kane comes over the comms. "Alright everyone, strap in. Next stop...Raven Rock."


    Jacobkosh on
    Hi I'm Vee!
  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    "Oh fuck I illegally imprisoned someone" is I think the most STRIKE thing I could read at this point.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
    JacobkoshFencingsaxRear Admiral ChocoMsAnthropy
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Matev wrote: »
    "Oh fuck I illegally imprisoned someone" is I think the most STRIKE thing I could read at this point.

    I mean

    we keep it real

    Rear Admiral Choco
  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    I loved Doom's line: "I disagree, I am entirely believable." Is that a reference or quote, or Matt's?

    Elise is delightfully overmatched in the giant Council room, and her parting "why would you say that!" felt both correct and on brand, like all these deep thinkers may have schooled her on most of these insoluble problem deals but dangit that comment was rude

    Of course Elise is the bad guys. I can't wait to see how her debt to silver goes

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    As far as I know, that line's original to this! And it's a very good line. Matt knows that the secret to writing Doom is that, on the one hand, he's incredibly florid and Shakespearean and about half of his lines should, properly, be delivered while holding a skull aloft. On the other hand, he's also a bitchy bitch who is absolutely not above catty banter and point-scoring.

    Elise was in rare form this week. I think my favorite moment was in the very first scene she was flailing so hard for ways to deflect blame that she tried to get Ryann in trouble for missing his family.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Anyway, I'm glad everyone seems to be enjoying this, because we have only one episode left to go. That's right, next up is the season 2 finale!

    We're in the middle of playing season 3 right now, and I'll probably begin the process of typing up the early episodes soon, but I don't think I'm going to post them until the whole season is in the bag. You really need a certain element of distance from the material to do these APs; you need time for the feelings of the moment to settle so you can get a longer perspective on what's going on. There's a lot of movie magic that goes into taking a chaotic chat transcript and turning it into readable (such as it is) prose; conversations that maybe seem to make perfect sense here are a fucking rat's nest of people talking over each other on four different parallel conversational paths at once.

    You get awful temporal chat paradoxes like

    - Person A says something
    - Person B reacts to the thing, then responds with a question
    - Person A replies to Person B's question
    - Person C replies to the reply
    - Person A replies to Person C's reply
    - The scene changes. Everyone is now hundreds of miles away from Person A. There's a fight happening.
    - Fucking Asshole D, who has been typing this whole time, makes a joke about the thing Person A originally said ten minutes ago but has the character deliver the line in the middle of the fight and also the line is a pun about what's happening right now in the fight scene so what do I even fucking do, move the line back in time and have it make no sense because it involves a joke about something that hasn't happened yet? Do I rewrite another player's words? I don't even know, fuck it, I delete the line and stick another pin in a Person D voodoo doll
    - Person B reacts to Person D's line

    And, like, the only way I know what's safe to delete, or to move around, or to highlight as a key line, or whatever, is to have some idea of what's coming up. So after this next entry, it's adios for a bit!

    But don't worry; there's something coming along to fill the gap.

  • PowerpuppiesPowerpuppies Registered User regular
    you're person D, right?

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    I won't say I'm never person D...

  • Hi I'm Vee!Hi I'm Vee! Formerly VH; She/Her; Is an E X P E R I E N C E Registered User regular
    Jacobkosh wrote: »
    This scene was as intense to play, at least for me, as it was to read, and it might be my single favorite thing Miles accomplishes in the entire campaign.

    Matt told us, afterward, that he really had planned all along to just...Ultimately Nullify Clay and Fury out of existence. To leave us leaderless in an incredibly vulnerable, climactic moment.

    But for a week now I’d been racking my brains. Why did Vlad give Elise a Cosmic Cube? I’m not as suspicious of him as Miles is - I thought it was at least somewhat possible that Matt might have some kind of semi-benevolent outcome in mind for Vlad doing this - but Miles would never, ever believe that. He would absolutely not accept anyone touching, much less using, a cosmic artifact that Vlad just happened to give to his teammate.

    I could feel, as a player, events rushing forward. Clay really wanted to use that Cube. I, as a player, thought maybe it was a One Ring sort of thing, an overwhelming moral temptation, or a compulsion placed on it by Vlad, or...something. Or Matt just driving really hard toward a certain outcome.

    But this game isn’t on rails. The stakes are real. I had Miles dig in his heels and fire off every argument I could think of, and the other guys joined in, and without a single die being rolled, purely through the force of our engagement, we changed the course of the story.

    And everything that happens going forward will be hugely different because we did.

    This is so cool. This is so fucking cool.

    I just want everyone to know that I think this is really fucking cool that this can happen.

    Kudos to y'all for making it happen, and kudos to Matt for letting it happen.

  • MatevMatev Cero Miedo Registered User regular
    Yah, I would love to chat game running philosophy sometime with Matt cause he has got some style, I tell you what.

    "Go down, kick ass, and set yourselves up as gods, that's our Prime Directive!"
    Hail Hydra
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    Matev wrote: »
    Yah, I would love to chat game running philosophy sometime with Matt cause he has got some style, I tell you what.

    One thing he asked me to point out is that he worked hard to make sure the big conference scene wasn't a cutscene. We weren't just watching NPCs talk from our position at the kids table. All the major characters had their point of view to share, consistent with their characterizations, but the PCs got to make arguments too and our arguments were listened to and mostly won out.

    There's this idea about gaming in established settings that you should keep your PCs far away from the established setting NPCs (never let them meet Darth Vader, or whatever). Part of that is because some immature dingus of a player might act out of character purely to try to "beat" the setting (ha ha my cowardly smuggler suddenly courageously suicide-bombed Darth Vader, I've won Star Wars, lol) but, going the other way, there's this fear that established NPCs will be used as a stick to beat the players with and make them do things. It's a trust issue.

    Neither of those things happened here, because we have that trust. We got to talk and interact with the characters as peers, rather than in some PC/questgiver relationship. It's okay to have your PCs talk shop with the movers and shakers, just don't kids-table them.

    Matt is also proud of the fact that we were able to fit in so much variety. Some types of gamers (I will say, admittedly a minority compared to people who just want to play D&D with a fighter named Bill) are really proud of like, oh we run courtly intrigue and never do anything so crass and lower-class as to roll initiative. But we had a huge intrigue scene and a dramatic showdown and a fight scene and an interrogation that the player deliberately torpedoed because it was something her character would do.

    You really can have it all. Doing one thing doesn't have to mean not doing another.

    Also, we were discussing the conference scene over Discord and Matt was talking about the philosophical positions he'd assigned (based on their existing personalities, obviously) to the various personalities. Like, Reed Richards is a utilitarian; he cares about maximizing good outcomes and minimizing harm, while Xavier is an altruist who seeks the greatest good for the most people but is willing for individuals to be harmed in some ways if it helps way more people. T'Challa is a Kantian who thinks that an ethic should apply all of the time or it's worthless, which makes him kind of rigid, while Clay is a consequentialist who only cares about outcomes: something was a good choice if it turned out well. Doom and Vlad are ethical egoists who think that superior beings acting in their own self-interest naturally leads to correct outcomes, and the Inhumans are deontologists who subscribe to moral laws and commands from on high: something's bad because some dude or some book said it was, end of story.

  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    Miles wakes up in a cell.

    He stands up and surveys his surroundings, then stops. He feels an itch on his chest. When he looks down, he sees a small incision mark, like a pacemaker scar.

    "Well, that's not good."

    Sir, when you were rendered unconscious, the Sentinels began to scan you. I calculated a high probability I would be detected, so I concealed my existence deep inside the firmware of your sub-processes. Unfortunately, this rendered me unable to monitor your sensory inputs until you became conscious and I was certain it was safe. I do not know where we are.

    This room is electronically sequestered. I am unable to contact Vision or find any wireless access points. It appears ONE have surgically installed a dampening device on your energy crystal, which disables your energy blasts, flight, and many of your other abilities. Your superhuman strength remains capable, albeit at diminished capacity. The cell's construction can withstand your strength at its current level.

    Miles nods. Copy that, buddy. I think our play for the time being is to wait and gather information. He looks around his cell for anything interesting.

    There's a holo-projector, similar to the kind SHIELD uses. As Miles faces it, it turns on.


    It's Gregory Stark.

    "Hello, Agent Mason."

    "Oh, hey," Miles waves cheerfully. "Any chance of getting a drink in here?"

    Stark smiles. "I'll see what I can do to make you comfortable."

    "Fantastic, thanks. If you've got turn-down service, I'll take that. And the mint." Miles smiles widely. "So, what can I do for you?"

    "So, it appears that SHIELD has my errant brother prisoner."

    "Errant?” Miles says. “He did exactly what you guys wanted."

    "ONE, perhaps, but not me," Stark says. "I did not know that Anthony was going to side with ONE and betray SHIELD. We don' much, as you can imagine."

    Miles holds up his hands. "I'm not really the demographic for Forbes Magazine, man. I don't imagine anything about you two. So fill me in. What do you want?"

    "We have you, and your people. It's been quite a challenge, by the by, to suit your individual needs. You were by far the simplest, install a dampening device and a micro-explosive." Stark frowns. "But the others..."

    Miles nods in mock sympathy. "Yeah, that must have been tough. How did you deal with Agent Westin?"

    "Dr. Richards created a device some time ago, a molecular re-stabilizer. He originally designed it as something of a 'Skrull detector;’ knock Skrulls into their true form and keep them that way. But it turns out it prevents any form of large scale mass-shifting molecular transformation. We modified the device to emit a field into Westin's cell, which prevents him from becoming his alternate form.

    "Adler was simply put in a suspended state, sort of a medically induced coma but deeper. Not quite death, we don't want him to die, that would actually be very dangerous for everyone here. But his state is so deep he's not even capable of subconscious thought. A dreamless state, without suffering or pain.

    "The most difficult was the alien."

    "I can imagine,” Miles says. “What do you plan to do when he goes into his mating frenzy?"

    Gregory actually chuckles. "He'll have bigger problems, I believe. I hadn't had time to get much intelligence on his abilities. He has some kind of ability to control and affect mass, although we're not entirely sure how. Connected to some kind of extra-terrestrial energy source, it seems.

    "I had no time to design an individual cell for him, so we used the one I had originally built for Hyperion. A repulsor array suspended in a nano-ferrofluid, with a reflexive gravitational induction field pushing on him in a perfect sphere.

    "The more he pushes against it and fights it, the more it feeds into the energy and pushes back."

    "Sounds like you got it all figured out, man,” Miles says. “So why'd you have to go and do a thing like sticking a bomb in me? Seems pretty low-rent by comparison. You get the intern to do that one?"

    "That's Pym's policy, not mine," Stark says irritatedly. "All the inmates here have micro-explosives. I think Pym has not enough faith in my cell design."

    "Pym's that washed-up old guy, right?” Miles asks. “You're letting him call the shots? Did you lose a bet?"

    Gregory sighs. "I was brought in as a contractor to solve a problem. Pym built the place. They needed an expert to build the cells. They made me an offer I couldn't refuse, so to speak."

    "Yeah? What've they got on you?"

    Stark shakes his head. "Nothing like that. I just...did the math and saw the way the winds of change were moving, and decided to be on the right side of history. So, when they made the offer, I made the right choices and did the right things. You know what that's like, right, Agent Mason? To do the math, and make the hard calls?"

    Miles' brow furrows. What game is this guy playing? "If I knew...the right things, I wouldn't be in this cell, right? Obviously I need a refresher. If you've got any words of wisdom, I'm all ears." X-51, record this interaction.

    I am, sir.

    Sir, I've run a diagnostic scan. There is indeed a device attached to your crystal in addition to the dampener, but I have been scanning it using internal diagnostics and it is not a micro-explosive.

    Miles’ eyes crinkle with sudden hope. ...Interesting. Can you access it?

    It appears to be a data storage device. It contains an encrypted file. I am attempting to decrypt it, but without the decryption key I estimate that the amount of time it will take me exceeds the heat death of the universe.

    Miles meets the holo-Stark’s gaze. "Maybe I need to find the answers inside myself? Is that it, Stark?"

    He shrugs. "Perhaps. I just have a Anthony...okay?"

    "He was when I left him,” Miles says. “Just a little tummyache."

    Gregory nods. "Good. I wish he hadn't gotten mixed up in this, or talked to me. Despite what people say about me, I do care about him. Thank you, Agent Mason, that will be all." He disconnects the hologram while whistling and absently murmuring a few bits of 'If I Only Had A Heart' from The Wizard of Oz.

    Sir. Mr. Stark has given us the decryption key.

    Miles nods. The tune?

    Yes, sir. I am decrypting the file now. It's a recording from...Gregory Stark. Projecting it into your augmented reality now.

    Gregory Stark appears in front of Miles as if he's standing in the same room as him.

    "Mason, if you're seeing this, then you and your AI have decrypted the file. I've been working inside ONE for months, not for Fury or SHIELD but because it was the right thing to do. ONE has other people inside SHIELD, I didn't know who I could trust. I didn't know about your plan, but now that you're here, I'm going to help you.

    "In this drive is a frequency that X-51 will be able to use to punch through the electronic sequester, and connect to the facility's systems. You can use it to break out of your cell, free your teammates, and get out of there. X-51 can also disable the dampener on your crystal, you'll have to get SHIELD medical to remove it later. None of your people have explosives on them, but some of the inmates do.

    "You'll want to get to the facility's main computer, download all the files from the main server on what happens here, get as much incriminating evidence as you can, and get out.

    "You can't punch your way out of here, right now you're shrunk down to the microscopic scale. There's a room in this facility, X-51 will help you find it, that can reverse the process and send you back to the normal world. Get there when you're ready to escape.

    "Don't try to find me, I'm not actually here. Best of luck." The message ends. Stark disappears.

    Miles sits there, stunned. X-51, I lied to Stark. I used to be the demographic that read Forbes Magazine, back when my greatest aspirations in life were a, a banana-yellow H4, and a mansion on Long Island, and a trophy wife with big fake tits.

    I know what everyone says about Gregory Stark. That he's a sociopath, that he's dangerous. But apparently everybody was wrong. If he's telling the truth—he maybe doesn't think like normal humans do. But he has an ethical consciousness anyway. We could both learn from that.
    He shakes his head and stands up. Anyway. Let's make this jailhouse rock.

    Gregory Stark isn’t a character from the regular “616” Marvel Universe but comes to us from the Ultimate Universe, a parallel line of comics that Marvel started in the early 2000s to give notable creators a canvas on which to try out experimental, alternate takes on traditional Marvel characters without the baggage of fitting them into 40 years of preexisting continuity. An interesting experiment that had mixed success, for reasons I won’t belabor here.

    Stark first appeared in an issue of Ultimate Avengers in 2009—well past the height of the Ultimate Universe’s relevance, which explains why I only learned about him when he appeared in this game—and is described as Tony’s “older brother,” a fraternal twin born 20 minutes earlier. Probably riffing on Holmes and Mycroft, creator Mark Millar characterized Gregory as both smarter, more restrained, but also more amoral and Machiavellian than his sibling, serving as a morally-ambiguous ally to the Avengers before betraying them as part of a master plan.

    I, as a player, have no idea what Matt has planned for this character, but Miles finds him fascinating. The idea of somebody that the world has written off as a bad guy but who might be less bad than everyone thinks is a narrative that Miles strongly gravitates to, for reasons that are hopefully obvious.

    Of course, if Stark really is a sociopathic manipulator, he might well know that that’s exactly how to push Miles’ buttons. Who knows?

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019
    Sir. I have accessed the frequency Stark referred to. I have passed through the sequester. I have discovered something.

    There is a prisoner in the cell next to us. A cyborg. His implants have been disabled by devices implanted by ONE, but I can disable them. I am also able to set up a communication bridge between you so you can communicate with him right now, similar to Agent Adler's telepathic link.

    This, of course, had me immediately racking my brain, wondering who it could be. Villainous Marvel cyborgs is a big category. I would need more information...

    Miles nods. Go for it.

    He hears a voice in his mind that isn't X-51. ...who is this?

    My name is Machine Man. I'm an agent of SHIELD. And I'm busting out of here.

    I want to help.

    What can you do?
    Miles asks. I'm putting together a plan.

    Many things. I am a soldier, created by my government for war, cast aside when they had no use for me, like garbage. This is wrong.

    That is wrong, I agree. What should I call you?

    My name is Arkady. They call me Omega Red.

    ...God damn it. Meet Omega Red:


    He's bad news! He fought all of the X-Men Blue Team to a standstill in his second appearance! Of course, Miles has no way of knowing that.

    Did you work for Leviathan, Arkady?

    ...I did, until they had no use for me. Then, nothing. I became nothing.

    Miles frowns. He knows, deep in his bones, that this guy is bad news.

    But he really hates ONE. Arkady, today's your lucky day. I can deactivate the implants holding you back. When I do, I want you to free us. Then I want you to make our jailers miserable, while I get the evidence we need to bring this organization down. Does that sound good, Arkady?

    Yes, comrade.

    X-51, reactivate his implants.

    There's a sound of metal ripping asunder and alarms begin wailing loudly. The door to Miles' cell comes off.



    Miles steps out and salutes. "You have your orders, Omega Red. I know you will do us proud." Arkady nods, and runs off down the hallway.

    One of the things Miles does a lot, partly as a deliberate character choice and partly because it’s something I do sometimes, is code-switching: changing his tenor and diction to fit the social situation he finds himself in.

    I catch myself doing it unconsciously, mimicking the way the people around me talk, because the one thing I have going for me in this dumb life is being a sponge for language. But Miles does it on purpose, because he wants something out of someone. I suspect it’s a skill he always had to some degree—being a semi-nerdy dude and a high school athlete and a preppie valedictorian type, and having to move between those worlds—but I’m sure it was highlighted and honed during his time studying Arabic at the Army language school.

    So we see him with Stark and he’s doing this kind of wry straight-shooter thing, being basically honest with Stark, needling him a lot, but also trying to sound a bit like a working stiff who didn’t see the big picture, because he was hoping to provoke a villainous monologue and a revelation of The Plan. Then as soon as he sees Omega Red and has an idea of this guy’s whole deal he starts channeling his inner Der Kommissar.

    X-51 comes back on in Miles' mind. Sir, I have redirected hostilities towards Omega Red. He appears capable of handling it. I have also disabled his micro-explosive. I have obtained an internal map of the facility, and know the location of the rest of the team.

    Thank you, X-51. I think we should free Behemoth first. Which way should I go?

    Bringing up a path in augmented reality.


    Following the path laid before him in his augmented reality vision, Miles races down the corridors of the Big House.

    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019


    STRIKE-2 are aboard the Zephyr, which is in stealth mode above the entrance to the Raven Rock nuclear bunker.

    Hyperion turns to face everyone. "Alright, team, here we go. I'm going in first, break in the door, draw most of the fire and deal with reinforcements. The rest of you head inside after.

    "Sensate, when you get in, try to locate Arsenal's server core. That's our primary objective. Once you've got the scent, take point and the rest of the team runs cover. MODOC, make sure Arsenal doesn't just lock the facility down, and give the team a straight shot to the core.

    "Flashback, Longbow, and Sable, you're on fire support."

    Elise finds the experience of taking orders from Hyperion, the man she once found terrifying, to be weird. She nods and checks her guns. One ICER, one standard shot, and one pistol next to her chest with EMP rounds. Just in case.

    "Alright people, let's do this!" He jumps out of the back of the Zephyr and hits the entrance of Raven Rock like a meteor. The mountain rumbles as its flank explodes in a shower of rock and twisted metal.

    Elise parachutes down, quietly mourning the fact that her entrance, by comparison, is shit. The rest of the Invincibles follow after.

    Hyperion starts immediately engaging the ground troops, who are all soldiers with conventional weapons, as he shouts "Go go go!"

    The team heads down into the bunker.


    Elise opens up her senses. Where are you, Arsenal?

    Her perception reverberates through the facility, feeling electricity and data pulse through the walls. It feels like she's inside a body, not of an organic being, but of something alive all the same. Searching through, she's able to find the brain.

    She knows where the central core is. Where Arsenal, the Master Mold, is. Her lips quirk up into a smile. "Found you, bitch." She takes off at a sprint. The rest of the Invincibles follow her.

    They race down the hallways of Raven Rock's bunker. MODOC is able to divert Arsenal's automated security measures from locking down doors and is able to confuse the defenders as to where, exactly, the Invincibles are.

    They come to a large, open area on the way to the core.


    It's a factory floor. This is where Sentinels are made.

    Alarms are going off. Elise hears the sound of something loud and metallic...rolling? She sees metal spheres rolling across the floor, a dozen of them, around two feet in diameter coming towards the team.


    "Bombs!" Sable yells.

    But they don't explode. They change shape.


    "What the fuck -" Elise jumps back.

    The spheres spread apart into swarms of tendrils skittering across the floor. Their singular, glowing red eyes paint red dot laser sights on each of the team as they approach, and the room fills with a high-pitched synthetic screeching.

    These are also Sentinels! Specifically, these little spider-drone things are the Sentinels from the Fox X-Men TV series The Gifted (a fun little show, by the way) where they are obviously more budget-feasible than swarms of Iron Man suits, much less the original classic 40-foot giant purple robots.

    Though I do get kind of impatient with the bizarre amount of difficulty even big-budget movies have in just doing the goddamn 40-foot giant purple robots. It’s weirdly precious of Hollywood considering some of the past two decades’ top-grossing movies have had giant robots that piss on people, make racist jokes, and take time out of the story to remind the audience about The Real Heroes of 9/11.

    Elise immediately fires on the middle-most...tentacle thing. She hits it in the center glowing eye perfectly, disabling it immediately. It goes limp, skidding to a halt. The rest of the team follows her lead. MODOC grunts as he tries to hack the drones, but is unable. So instead, he blasts them with a particle beam from his forehead.

    "Hey, Longbow! Bet you I can get more dead centers than you can!" These things basically run off Zelda rules, which is comforting to Elise.

    "Oh this is on!" Bob shouts. They pour fire into the onrushing horde.

    Elise wins that gamble. " dang," Bob says, staring at her pile of robotic corpses. "Why you gotta be gay, that's really hot."

    "I don't think we've figured that out yet. It's probably genetic?" she offers. "Also, tits are great."

    Longbow nods. "They are great..."

    A booming voice fills the facility. "ANALYSIS COMPLETE. ITERATING."

    "...Oh no," Elise says. She yells up at a security camera. "Oh, Arsenal, you fucking shitsucker, I am coming for you!"

    Pods drop from the ceiling.

    They shatter when they hit the floor, leaving a half-dozen piles of small metallic purple hexagons.

    Flashback looks around at the piles. "...uh? Arsenal? I think your new Sentinels are broken."

    "Performance anxiety," Elise sniggers. "Happens to the best of us."


    The hexagons assemble into humanoid forms, ten feet tall.


    "...Oh." Elise stares. "Oh, fuck me."

    The Adaptoid-Sentinels attack. They move quickly, suddenly, their motions unnatural and twitchy.

    Ten feet tall? Excellent. We’re getting closer to giant robot town, guys! We can do it!

    “Adaptoids” are another category of Marvel robots. The original Adaptoid—literally just called “The Adaptoid” in a 1966 issue of Tales of Suspense—was built by the Advanced Idea Mechanics to fight Captain America, and was powered by a shard of the Cosmic Cube, which gave it the ability to change shape and mimic the powers of the Avengers in a way that was definitely super-duper legally distinct from DC’s android villain Amazo, who used the Justice League’s own powers against them in a 1960 issue of that comic.

    The Adaptoid doesn’t have elf ears and purple underwear, though, so it wins on moral grounds if not legal ones.

    The Adaptoid then got stronger, becoming the Super-Adaptoid in future appearances (when it menaced the X-Men a year or two later), and AIM and other Marvel mad scientists began using Adaptoid technology to create other killer robots, including a “Supreme Adaptoid.” Nowadays Adaptoids are just one of the many kinds of killer robots roaming around the Marvel universe, like Doombots, the mutant-hunting Sentinels, HYDRA’s bulky Dreadnought soldiers, towering Kree Sentries, or the hopefully self-explanatory Spider-Slayers.

    Elise pulls her EMP-rounds pistol and fires at the nearest one. She has to empty the magazine, but the Sentinel's cohesion is disrupted and it falls apart into hexagonal pieces all over her.

    She reloads and dances back. "Fuck! Fuck! I fucking hate these things! What is your fucking problem, Arsenal?"

    Flashback grabs her and points at a hallway. "Go! There's your opening! We got this!"

    Elise tosses Flashback her EMP rounds. "Stay safe." Jenny nods.

    Elise takes off in a sprint down the hallway. The rest of the Invincibles continue to fight the Adaptoid-Sentinels. MODOC slams the door shut behind Elise and locks it so the Sentinels can't follow her.


    Jacobkosh on
  • JacobkoshJacobkosh Gamble a stamp. I can show you how to be a real man!Moderator mod
    edited September 2019

    Miles finds Behemoth's cell. It's similar to his own, but there's a console outside it.

    How do I open this? he thinks.

    Place your hand against the console, and it will allow me to manually hack the console. Miles does so.

    I have deactivated the field and I am opening the cell.

    The door opens, and Michael is there. His cell has Netflix so he's not been completely wasting his time. He pauses his episode of Orange Is the New Black and turns his head towards the door.

    Miles steps into the cell. "My name is Luke Skywalker! I'm here to rescue you!"

    "Aren’t you a little short for a Machine Man?"

    Miles can almost hear X-51’s sigh. Really, sir.

    I regret nothing.
    Miles goes for a high-five with Michael, who hits it with gusto.

    "So, we bustin’ out now, Chief?"

    Miles grins. "You better believe it. And I've brought toys for all the bad boys and girls. Try changing outside the door."

    Michael steps out of the door and armors up.


    "Ahhhh, much better," he rumbles as he flexes.

    Elise was weirded out last session by how chipper the boys were about the prospect of being captured and going to superjail and I think she’d be even more weirded out by Miles and Michael taking their comedy double act on the road. But the thing is, this stuff is what Miles, Michael, and to some extent Ryann do. They’re professionals, and professionals get a weird sense of humor about things.

    And I think after all the intense debate and scheming, and after all of the horrific shit they’ve faced down this season—multiversal empires, 30th-century dictators, dark gods, and brutal terrorist attacks—and all of the moral crises and partial victories, this must feel like an incredibly refreshing return to what they know best: an evil organization, a secret prison, a clandestine mission. No wonder they’re relaxed.

    None of this applies to Julian, of course, but he’s high, which is almost as good.

    "We're blowing this popsicle stand." Miles steps into the hall. Which way to the Nova, X-51?

    Sir, Centurion's location is extremely heavily guarded. I would recommend rescuing Agent Adler first.

    “Okay, I guess Adler's next,” Miles says.

    "Oh, when we get to his door, open it and I'll step into frame and say 'Come with me if you want to live.' It'll be great."

    Miles nods. "You're on. I want to hear that accent, though.” Lead the way.

    They head down the hallway. After a while, X-51 speaks up. Sir, I have detected another potential asset who can divert attention away from us.

    Who is it? Do you have access to the files?

    Not remotely, but he's being contained in a sealed unit. I could manually access the file at his console with a short diversion,
    X-51 says.

    Hm. Okay. We'll take a look.

    Miles and Michael approach a large containment unit.


    "Michael, X-51 says that there's someone here who might be able to help us. But, I mean, it might be Charles Manson with Inhuman powers or something. So we're going to take a look at his file before making any more rash decisions." Miles approaches the console.

    Behemoth nods. "Roger dodger."

    Miles puts his hand against the console, and X-51 scans it. Sir, the contained inmate is identified as 'Erik Lehnsherr,' alias Magneto. Part of a group known as the Brotherhood of Mutants, which ONE apprehended.

    His powers appear to be a complete control of the fundamental force of electromagnetism. He is being contained inside a polarized cell that de-ionizes everything inside and essentially nullifies his powers so long as the field is active.

    Miles chews his lip. What was he apprehended for? Those powers sound great, but I need to know I'm not making more trouble than I'm solving.

    Apparently he and his Brotherhood destroyed a facility run by the Essex Corporation in an apparent act of terrorism. The government covered this attack up, I am currently unable to obtain details as to why.

    What's the Essex Corporation?
    Miles turns to Michael. "This guy can control electromagnetism. Sounds good, but X-51's having trouble figuring out what he did."

    A genetics research company. Since Alchemax's collapse, it appears to have acquired a great deal of Alchemax's former assets and facilities.

    "Uh," Michael motions up and down his body. "I'm all metal. Might be a problem."

    Calculating probabilities, stand by.

    Miles sucks his teeth. "Yeah...okay, X-51's running the numbers."

    I mean, you knew it had to happen as soon as you saw Professor X, right?

    I don’t know what needs to be said about Magneto. He’s probably one of Marvel’s three or four most richly-characterized villains and one of their most recognizable, having been around since almost the beginning, first appearing in Uncanny X-Men #1 way back in 1963. While he was pretty straightforwardly a cackling supervillain in those first couple appearances, it wasn’t long at all before his character acquired more sympathetic shadings, becoming an honorable but fanatical terrorist or morally ambiguous freedom fighter.

    While credit for fleshing him out often and mostly deservedly goes to legendary X-Men writer Chris Claremont, who made him a Jewish Holocaust survivor in a 1970s story, the humanizing of Magneto actually began as early as the fourth or fifth X-Men issue with the addition of his two adult children, Pietro and Wanda—Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch, or “The Twins” as they appeared here.

    It’s a shame that business and other real-life considerations (Quicksilver was licensed to Fox as part of their X-Men deal, while Wanda remained with the Avengers and hence the MCU) have cleaved Magneto from his kids in canon, because his relationship with them was interesting; fraught and tense, but not unloving. As with Norman Osborn and his son Harry, or the evil Skrull Emperor Dorrek and his good-hearted daughter Annelle, Stan Lee enjoyed giving his villains a bit of depth and pathos by having them genuinely love their (usually better-adjusted) children, and it paved the way for the work Claremont did later.

    The Essex Corporation featured in the movies X-Men Apocalypse and Logan as a sinister genetics company doing various sinister genetics things.

    Sir, I have concluded that this Magneto is either a mutant supremacist terrorist who believes humanity should be subservient to a mutant oligarchy.


    He is a mutant freedom fighter who is working behind the scenes to stop abuses of his people at the hands of an unethical government and corporations that are exploiting his people.


    He is possibly both in some sort of mixture, depending on individual moral and philosophical viewpoint.

    Miles relays this information to Behemoth. "This decision is too big for me to make on my own. What do you think?"

    Michael ponders for a second. "We should free him. Maybe he won't fight us for the sole reason that we freed him."

    Miles nods. "Yeah...yeah. Fool me once, right? Open the cell, X-51."

    X-51 opens the cell. A man steps out of it who looks to be in his late 50's or early 60's, with silver hair and a stern expression.

    Magneto looks at both of them. "A jailbreak, then?" he says, hearing the alarms.

    Miles nods. "Sort of. You should know, you're about one angstrom tall right now. Busting out isn't enough - we need to find the cure."

    He nods. "I want to find the rest of my brotherhood, as well. Leaving without them is non-negotiable."

    "I have access to the facility records. Who are they? I'll see if I can find them for you."

    "Chamber. White Queen. Elixir. Dust."

    Miles nods. "Good names. You get that, X-51?"

    I did, sir. I have located the inmates by their aliases. I have also located Mr. Lehnsherr's personal effects, which are stored nearby.

    What are those personal effects?
    To Lensherr: "We've got a fix on them."

    His clothing and equipment that were taken from him when he was captured. A helmet, coat, wallet, that sort of thing. No weapons, it seems.

    "Also, your stuff's in that locker, apparently." Miles points.

    Magneto nods, and pulls the locker open with his powers. He puts on his coat and helmet, and turns to face the two agents. "Call up a map on that display there, and show me where my people are. I will rescue them first, and then meet you at the exit."


    "Sounds good to me." Miles goes to the display console.

    Magneto nods at the directions given. "Very good. I will see you when the task is done. Thank you." He pauses. "I didn't get your names."

    "Machine Man. Behemoth." Miles points. "We're agents of SHIELD, and we've infiltrated this place to get you all out. If you need help, holler. I've got big ears."

    Magneto nods, turns, and walks away.

    Sir, I predict that we have made a powerful ally.

    He certainly seems...masterful.
    "Okay, let's find Julian."

    The pair head through the facility. Between Magneto and Omega Red tearing things up, the facility security have a lot on their hands. Sir, facility security is being moved not just towards Omega Red and Magneto but away from you. Specifically away from Behemoth.

    They were heavily reliant on their micro-explosives in case of prisoner break-out and I am disabling them on each freed prisoner. This is a complication they did not anticipate.

    Miles nods thoughtfully. They might have some other recourse, though. They could always step on us.

    The facility does have a self-destruct sequence in case of complete control loss. Mr. Stark has disabled it, and has disabled communications to the outside world.

    Jacobkosh on
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